EDITORIAL: Peaceful polls

The two phases of local elections have proved the fact that the people want peace, stability and prosperity through periodic elections

Voting on the second phase of local level election in 35 districts of the province number 1, 5 and 7 went off largely peacefully except for  sporadic incidences of violence and clashes among rival parties’ cadres and a couple of deaths related to the election held almost after a gap of 20 years. Preliminary estimates made by the Election Commission put the overall voting turnout at 73.69 percent, with Bajura district recording the highest 80 percent turnout and Bhojpur the lowest 61 percent. As many as 62,408 candidates of various political parties and independent ones are in the fray for 15,053 posts, including the chief/deputy chief, ward chief and members of metropolis, sub-metropolis, municipalities and rural municipalities of the three provinces where elections were held for 334 local levels. Interesting to note is that no voter turned up in a polling centre at Nechha Salyan rural municipality, Tingla, Solukhumbu district and only two votes were cast in Bhujuwa polling centre of Sarawal rural municipality, Nawalparasi. The voters in both the polling centres boycotted the voting protesting the restructuring of the local level.

The second phase of the local level election remained largely peaceful despite the call for a boycott by the newly-formed Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) and the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal. Although the high commands of both the parties had decided to actively boycott the elections their local level cadres not only took part in the voting but also fielded independent candidates in Rupandehi, Kapilvastu and Banke districts where RJPN claims to hold political influence and the Chand-led party’s cadres fielded independent candidacies in Rolpa’s Thawng. Reports from province number 1 and 5 showed larger number of women from the Madhesi community taking part in the election compared to their male counterpart. It shows how eager the people were to exercise their franchise which will bring the local government at their door steps. The call for boycott by the disgruntled parties had no impact in the election. Learning lesson from the two phases of elections the agitating parties must not miss the third phase of local polls.

In his twitter message, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has said the successful conduct of the first and second phases of local elections have given him the confidence that the third phase of local level election, provincial and parliamentary elections will also be held successfully by January 21, 2018. Successful holding of all levels of elections will help institutionalise the new constitution and take democracy to the grass-roots level. The two phases of local elections have proved the fact that the people want peace, stability and prosperity through periodic elections, and the people’s overwhelming participation in the elections have also rejected the idea of violence. After the second phase of local election, the EC must focus on counting votes at the earliest. EC has asked the returning officers to conclude the vote counting process within three days in rural municipalities and within a week in metropolis and municipalities. EC must also not tolerate obstruction from any quarters inside the vote counting counters. All must display democratic culture accepting the people’s verdict through ballots.

Indian tourists

Indian tourists to Nepal constitute as much as 33 per cent of the total number of tourists. Keeping this in mind the Western Regional Hotel Association, Pokhara is ready to launch a campaign to entice Indian tourists by visiting neigbouring cities of India like Patna, Lucknow and Gorakhpur in a bid to promote the major tourist destinations in Nepal. The campaign would be lasting for four days. Indian visitors to Nepal had plummeted after the earthquake in 2015 and also the blockade and the agitation in the Tarai. Fortunately more tourists are visiting Nepal again and we could do with more promotion. Domestic tourists and even tourists from Third World countries would be encouraged to visit the various popular destinations for tourists in Nepal.

The most popular destination for Indian tourists visiting Nepal are Chitwan, Pokhara, Manakamana temple in Gorkha and Muktinath temple in Mustang. Tourism entrepreneurs from Pokhara and Lumbini, Nepal Tourism Board officials and journalists would be part of the team that would be visiting India. The team would also be involved in promotional activities such as holding press conferences.