UML threatens protest if Bharatpur goes for re-polls

Published On: May 31, 2017 04:00 AM NPT

KATHMANDU, May 30: The main opposition CPN-UML has warned that it will launch protests if the Election Commission (EC) decides to go for re-polling in the disputed ward of the Bharatpur Metropolitan City. It has also demanded that the voting counting be resumed without delay. The counting of votes in Bharatpur remains stalled since Sunday midnight after the CPN (Maoist Center) workers tore some ballot papers.  

A day after the election body assigned its senior officials to investigate the ballot-tearing incident, top UML leaders visited the EC head office in Kathmandu and demanded that the vote counting process be resumed immediately, and threatened protests.
In a meeting with the chief election commissioner and commissioners, UML leaders asked the commissioners to visit Bharatpur and order resumption of vote counting immediately. "Since this is the first time in Nepal's poll history that such an incident has happened, it would be better for the chief election commissioner and the commissioners to visit Bharatpur and investigate the incident," said Subas Nembang, UML's deputy parliamentary party leader, adding, "That's why we have demanded that vote counting be resumed immediately and those involved in ballot-tearing be booked for acting with an intent to loot the votes".
UML believes that the ballots were torn by the Maoist representatives present at the vote-counting center with an intent to force the election officers into conducting re-election in the disputed ward of the municipality. The election law has a provision of conducting re-election if the ballot papers are looted, burnt or destroyed.

While the ruling CPN (Maoist Center) and Nepali Congress have been demanding re-election in the disputed ward, ward 19, the UML has been demanding resumption of vote counting. "A few votes were torn but they are now conspiring to produce a probe report in such a way that the Election Commission will have to conduct a re-election," said Nembang. 

The election in Bharatpur metropolis has been keenly watched nationwide after the Maoist Center fielded Renu Dahal, the daughter of Prime Minster Pushpa Kamal Dahal, as its mayoral candidate for the metropolis after an electoral adjustment with the Nepali Congress.

Out of the 29 wards in Bharatpur, the counting of votes of 27 wards has already been completed. Maoist representatives, according to police, tore the ballots when the counting of votes in ward 19 was near completion. Counting of votes of ward number 20 has yet to begin.
Before the ballot-tearing incident, CPN UML's mayoral candidate Devi Gyawali was leading the count by 733 votes. While Gyawali had received a total of 41,641 votes, Maoist Center's candidate Renu Dahal was trailing with 40,908 votes.

Soon after the incident, the EC has formed a three-member probe panel headed by its Joint-secretary Geeta Prasad Timsina. 

Terming ballot-tearing as a serious crime, which could spread elsewhere, Nembang said that the 'crime' was committed with an intent of reversing the election results and warned that the EC will not be able to conduct the second round of elections if decided to conduct re-election in the Bharatpur ward. 

"No party will be ready to face defeat in the future elections," said Nembang.
Replying to the UML leaders, Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav said he has taken the incident seriously and will take appropriate action once the investigation panel submits its report. The committee has been given until Wednesday to submit the report.

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