|INSIDE THE BOX: Election offices collect ballot boxes at the Central Resource Centre in Babar Mahal.|
The campaign fever is over, election day itself was an anti-climax and now begins the long, long wait for the results.
In Nepal, voting itself is not the big issue. It is the process of counting that has people glued to their radio sets. In many cases this is where democracy falters.
"If we didn't have the proportional representation system, vote counting would have taken three days maximum," says Baburam Khanal at the Election Commission. Because this is a mixed election, the process of counting can take up to two weeks.
The results of direct elections will start being publicised within a day, especially in the Kathmandu constituencies where there is electronic voting. These results will be broadcast through media and the EC website (http://www.election.gov.np). The electronic voting machines have been tried and tested in India and come highly recommended.
After polls closed on Thursday evening, the ballot boxes were sealed and taken to counting centres under security. The ballots for the first-past-the-post and proportional representation systems will be counted simultaneously at each district capital. In remote areas the Home Ministry will use helicopters to deliver ballot boxes.
Each ballot paper will be opened, and its vote noted and marked by five people.Any ballot paper that is missing a signature or appears tampered with in any way will be disregarded. In addition to the counters, one helper, a supervisor and a returning election officer will be present. The returning officer will announce the name of the candidate with the most number of votes as elected. For the PR system, the officer will note the number of votes obtained by each party and fill it in a chart.
At least one representative of each candidate also has to be present at the counting. "Journalists and election observers will also be accommodated so long as there is space," says Khanal. "But we don't want too many people crowding and distracting the count."
"The FPTP counting should be fairly routine, it is only the PR system that might present problems," says Dinesh Tripathi, an independent poll observer for the Nepal Bar Association. Since the PR system considers the entire country as a single constituency, there might be problems with counting and tallies. Adding such a large number of ballots could present a problem.
But Khanal says the system is foolproof. "We have representatives of all the candidates present during counting," he says, "they will balance each other out."
Both FPTP and PR results will be announced in each district as soon as they are completed. The PR vote counting charts will then be relayed to the Election Commission where they will be tallied.
The period until the final results are announced will no doubt be tense, especially if any district needs a re-poll. But Khanal is confident about the counting process, saying: "So long as the voting goes okay, the counting will be no problem." But be prepared for a long wait.