The best way to reduce the time for counting the votes is to switch to the Electronic Voting Machine

The Election Commission (EC) did not learn lessons from the mistakes it made the last time during the counting of votes cast in six metropolises and 11 sub-metropolises. Vote counting has been so slow that the six metropolitan cities that saw the largest number of voters have been able to count just around 6 per cent in the last three days. Should this trend continue, it will take at least 27 days to finish the counting of all the votes in Kathmandu and 50 days in Pokhara. The counting of votes had started on Saturday in all the rural and urban municipalities.

Results of 55 rural municipalities, where the number of voters is fewer than in the urban municipalities, have been declared as of Sunday midnight. Re-polling in 85 polling centres of 30 municipalities has yet to start. The slow pace of vote counting in the big municipalities is not only wasting time and resources of the government, security personnel, political parties and candidates, but also the working hours of tens of thousands of people across the country, who are eagerly waiting for the final results of the civic polls held on May 13. The delay in the counting of votes has had impact on the economic activities as almost all the people are glued to the TV sets and the online media.

Learning lessons from the 2017 local level elections, the government and the EC should have switched to the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), which can produce election results quickly without the government employees and representatives of political parties having to waste unnecessary time and energy. Earlier, the EC had proposed using the EVM, which is widely used in all democratic countries to produce quick election results, for the local level elections. But the government showed no interest in using it, citing its "unreliability". If the EVM is foolproof in other countries, why cannot it be the same in Nepal? The EVM is nothing new for Nepal as the EC had earlier used it in some by-elections way back in the 1990s. Using the EVM could have also saved a lot of resources and the EC's time as compared to that of the ballot papers, which take a lot of time to print and count manually.

The EC has now passed the buck to the district election officials for the slow pace of vote counting.

The district elections officials lament that they do not have adequate human resource and space to count the votes at multiple counting centres. How can the district election offices deploy additional number of government employees at short notice? It is the responsibility of the EC to provide the required number of experienced government staff who can effectively handle the vote counting process acceptable to all. Instead of issuing an irresponsible statement, the EC should have arranged additional government staffers in the metropolises, where the numbers of votes are quite large, so that vote counting could be completed within a couple of days. The best way to reduce the time for counting the votes is to switch to the EVM in November when elections for the federal parliament and provincial assemblies will be held.

Are the political parties, EC and the government ready for it, which produces quick results without any human error?

Win for NEA

The Indian government's nod to the establishment of a joint venture company in India for the construction of the proposed 400 kV New Butwal-Gorakhpur transmission line with Nepali investment is a feather in the cap of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). To be completed in three years, the project will have a 50 per cent equity investment each of NEA and the Power Grid Corporation of India. Currently, cross-border power trade takes places through the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur 400 kV transmission line, and the second such transmission line linking Butwal with Gorakhpur in India will facilitate the exchange of 2000 MW of electricity, almost double the former's capacity.

Currently, Nepal produces about 2,000 MW of electricity, and different projects, mostly hydropower plants of 3,000 MW capacity are under construction.

Since Nepal is unable to utilise all of the generated power, exporting it is the only option available. It is equally important for Nepal to speed up the construction of the 312-kilometre-long transmission line under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) deal to carry electricity from the production sites to places where there is a demand, including for export to India and Bangladesh.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 17, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.