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Bharatpur repoll condemned

Sunday, June 4th, 2017
Milestone: Bharatpur Repolling Sidecar: Election Commission Rabin Sayami in Nagarik, 4 June

Milestone: Bharatpur Repolling
Sidecar: Election Commission
Rabin Sayami in Nagarik, 4 June

The Election Commission’s decision on Saturday to conduct fresh elections in a part of Bharatpur city has been greeted with widespread condemnation from media, civil society and the legal fraternity.

Bharatpur is one of the last constituencies from the 14 May local elections in three provinces to be counted, and is hotly contested because the Nepali Congress withdrew its sure-to-win mayor candidate to allow Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s daughter, Renu, a chance.

However, the UML’s Devi Gyawali had been leading in the counting till last week  by a narrow margin. When it looked like the ballots from Ward 19 were also going in   favour, Maoist cadre disrupted the counting on the night of 28 May, tearing up ballot papers. Ony Ward 19 and 20 of the 30 wards in Bharatpur were remaining to be counted.

Counting was suspended, two Maoist part members were arrested for vandalism and later released. The Election Commission sent an inquiry team, which interviewed eye witnesses, and it sent a second team which found out that only 90 ballot papers had been torn.

However, one week later, the Election Commission said “in accordance with the law” it would conduct a repoll in Ward 19. There was bitter debate within the Commission itself between Chief Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav and one of his colleagues Narendra Dahal.

Narendra Dahal had maintained that the decision to repoll would set a dangerous precedent for the losing side in future elections to tear up some ballot papers during counting to force fresh elections. However, Yadav is said to have rejected the dissenting note. The Commissioners were mostly in favour of continuing the count, but changed their minds overnight.

The UML’s K P Oli, whose candidate was leading in the Bharatpur count said the EC’s decision was “unacceptable” and threatened unspecified “political response”. He accused the EC of being under political duress and hinted that the UML may challenge the decision in the court.

On Saturday, the UML’s youth wing burnt effigies of Commisioner Yadav and student leaders said the repolling decision had “rewarded criminals”.

Constitutional lawyer Bhimarjun Acharya told the media that the EC had openly admitted to being swayed by political pressure and had lost its independence. “The act looks like a deliberate attempt to change the outcome of an election by forcing a recount, and is proof to others that they can do the same in the next phase and in future elections,” Acharya added.

Former Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Upreti tweeted: ‘Quarantining 90, ballots Vote should have been counted.’ He also said that flaws in electoral laws could be corrected by a court verdict as is done in other countries.

The social media was swept with mostly negative comments about the EC decision, most users ridiculing the EC. Sunday morning newspapers also had scathing editorials and critical page 1 coverage of the decision.

Meanwhile, UML member Gunjaman BK and advocate Tulsiram Pandey filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court on Sunday against the EC’s decision to re-conduct elections in Ward 19 of Bharatpur. The court is likely to give its verdict on the writ on Monday itself.

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One Response to “Bharatpur repoll condemned”

  1. Salute to the people – Kanak Mani Dixit on Says:

    […] out of the window as the Commission stooped to the whims of the ruling regime – best seen in the call for re-elections in one Chitwan poll centre where Maoist goons tore up some ballot […]

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