EC seeks number of ballot papers torn

Kathmandu/Chitwan, May 31

The Election Commission today directed the chief returning officer and the probe panel formed to look into tearing of ballot papers when counting was on for Ward No 19 of Bharatpur Metropolitan City to submit the number of ballot papers that were torn during vote counting to the EC.

A meeting of EC commissioners and officials, including Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhi Prasad Yadav, held this evening to discuss the report of the probe committee, also sought the number of ballot papers that remained to be counted.

EC Secretary Gopinath Mainali said the reports submitted by the chief returning officer and the probe committee formed to look into the fracas did not mention the number of torn ballot papers and ballot papers that remained to be counted.

The poll panel added that the package containing torn ballot papers should be opened in the presence of candidates contesting posts of mayor, deputy mayor, chiefs of respective wards and their representatives, chief district officer and chief of district police office.

According to Mainali, the EC could not decide whether or not to allow resumption of vote counting or re-polling as demanded by the concerned parties.

Earlier today, the probe panel formed to investigate tearing of ballot papers during counting of votes in Bharatpur Metropolitan City on Sunday night submitted its report to the EC today.

On Monday, the Election Commission had formed a probe panel headed by Joint Attorney General Gita Prasad Timsina with Home Ministry Joint Secretary Mahesh Acharya and Deputy Inspector General of Nepal Police Kedarman Singh Bhandari as its members.

The panel had held discussion with party chiefs, chief returning officer, Chitwan district police chief, team of APF personnel deployed at the vote counting venue and other staff involved in counting on Monday.

CPN-Maoist Centre representatives were accused of tearing ballot papers at 11:45 pm on Sunday night while vote counting was in the final phase. Police have detained two Maoist cadres. Only ballots of Ward No 20 remain to be counted. CPN-UML mayoral candidate Devi Gyawali is leading with 733 votes against his nearest rival Renu Dahal of CPN-MC.

Chitwan unit of the CPN-UML has called Chitwan bandh tomorrow, demanding resumption of vote counting. Out of 29 wards of BMC, counting in 27 wards has already been completed, according to the Election Commission.

In Kathmandu, CPN-UML lawmakers obstructed House proceedings today over the vote counting fracas, forcing Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar to adjourn the House till 1:00pm tomorrow.

The speaker initiated House proceedings, giving CPN-UML lawmaker Surendra Pandey time to speak.

Pandey said if re-polling was held in Chitwan, as demanded by the CPN-MC, it would set a bad precedent and encourage any candidate who feared defeat to resort to the tactic and demand re-polling.

He threatened that the CPN-UML would declare its candidate winner if vote counting that was suspended on Sunday did not begin soon.

After Pandey’s remarks, CPN-UML lawmakers rose from their chairs to obstruct parliamentary proceeding, forcing the speaker to adjourn the House.