Voters were more enthusiastic as the new constitution has given more power and authority to the elected representatives at the local level
The first phase of local level elections was held in province number 3, 4 and 6 peacefully, except for a few sporadic incidents of violence, booth capturing and clashes between the cadres of major political parties. Unfortunately, one woman was killed in police firing in Melung Rural Municipality, Dolakha after a group of people tried to capture a polling booth. One polling station each was cancelled in Chitwan and a hilly area of Nawalparasi district. Cadres of the CPN-UML and Nepali Congress clashed with each other in Dailekh district. Gorkha district also saw a sloganeering of one political party in one rural polling station. According to a preliminary estimate of the Election Commission, nationwide voters’ turnout stood at around 65 percent. Most of the voters cast their votes early in the morning after the polling was opened at 7 a.m. But in some polling stations, the voting process took place only at noon due to disputes among the political parties and mismanagement of the polling officials. As per the schedule, counting of votes will start immediately after all the ballot boxes have been brought to the election offices where the counting will take place. Election Office of the concerned districts will re-schedule dates of re-polling in areas where elections have been cancelled.
The EC has said that as many as 5,843 representatives including chiefs/deputy- chiefs, ward chairmen and ward members in Province number 3, 3,965 in Province number 4 and 3,748 in Province number 6 will be elected. There are 119 local level units in Province number 3, 85 in Province number 4 and 79 in Province number 6. As many as 62,916 security personnel, including Nepali Army (on the third security circle), Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and temporary police personnel, were deployed to provide security to the voters, election officials, ballot papers and polling stations.
People were eager to take part in the local level elections as such elections had not been held since 1997 under the old constitution. Voters were even more enthusiastic in this election than in the past as the new constitution has given more power and authority to the elected representatives at the local level. The local level elections are also first major steps towards holding the provincial and parliamentary elections which need to be held before January 22, 2018 as per the constitutional deadline. The local level elections will also provide the people a feeling of change as they will see the government come to their door steps providing basic services which they had yearned for long. The successful holding of the first phase of local level elections will also give the EC more confidence to hold the second round of elections in Province numbers 1, 2, 5 and 7. However, the EC and the security wings need to learn lessons from the shortcomings seen during the first phase of the elections. It is also equally important for the political parties to behave responsibly and shun violent tactics. They must understand the fact that they can win the hearts and minds of the voters through sound development programmes and not through threats and intimidation.
More fire engines
It appears that most municipalities lack fire engines. There is a provision that requires all the municipalities to have a fire engine together with an excavator, roller and garbage truck. As a result, people of most municipalities are compelled to fight fire with their bare hands as they lack the equipment and manpower to fight fires. Taking this into account, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development has allocated Rs.6 million each to 33 municipalities to purchase fire engines. Many fire engines are being donated by friendly countries, including India which provided 17 fire engines recently.
MoFALD is reported to see to it that the number of municipalities with fire engines would reach 121 within the fiscal 2016/17. Incidentally, the number of municipalities is 263. As many areas are prone to fire there should be at least one fire engine in each municipality. Therefore, it is essential to have more of these that would help fight fire and save many human lives and property. They should also be well maintained which is not the case now. Many fire engines are in a state of disrepair which is costing the country dear.
A version of this article appears in print on May 15, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.