ROLPA -The Maoists are holding their local elections here and have brought in the media as 'election observers\'. Maoist elections are different in many ways but the paraphernalia is similar to the government\'s elections. Instead of the swastika rubber stamp, the Maoist stamp has a red star. While the state deploys government officials as election officials, the Maoists use their own party members. The rebels had 14 signs for different candidates on the voting ballot. They had put their party symbol-hammer and sickle-as number one followed by a house, watch, oil lamp, glass, leaf, umbrella, fish, radio, madal, jug, pen and key. The process employed was government-style, complete with witness, representatives, stamping, signing and counting. The turnout at the Maoist elections was the same as the turnout of the government elections of 1997 in Rolpa. The Maoists had 11 election booths in Thabang instead of the nine that were put up by the state. In a show of inclusiveness, they made it compulsory to have 40 percent of candidates female and 20 percent dalits.
Independent candidates have to submit to the party\'s ideology, objective and declarations. The Maoist directive states that if the candidate does not get 10 percent of the total votes, his deposit will be revoked. Constitutionally, a candidate must be over 18 years but 16-21 is the age requirement among the Maoists. The name of the candidates were finalised and they went campaigning door-to-door. Black plastic drums served as ballot boxes, covered in white cloth with a hole in the middle. Pictured, above: vote counting in progress.