The EC also did not have enough time to educate the voters about the ways of voting as it was entangled with a legal case over the ballot papers
With just four days left for the federal and provincial elections to be held under the first phase on November 26 many people in remote hilly and mountainous districts complain that they did not have any idea on how to vote. The people who have their names registered with the voters roll also complain that nobody came to teach them how many votes they are supposed to cast. The first phase of the federal and provincial elections is being held in 32 districts in the hills and mountains from where 37 members of the House of Representatives and 74 members of Pradesh assemblies will be elected. When the local elections were held in three phases – May 14, June 28 and September 18 – people cast votes for seven different positions in a single ballot paper. During that time the Election Commission, political parties and their cadres had enough time to educate the voters about the voting process. This time votes are required to cast votes for one member of the House of Representatives and one member for the concerned Pradesh Assembly in the given constituency. There will be two separate ballot papers for the parliamentary and provincial first-past-the-post seats and a single ballot paper divided by a bold line for parliamentary and provincial PR seats.
It is not that the cadres of political parties have not visited the remote villages. During interviews it was found that they simply told the voters on which symbol they need to vote, but not how to cast votes and how many votes they are required to cast. This has created confusion among the illiterate, women and elderly voters. Many voters said they found it quite easy during the local election to cast votes for seven different positions in a single ballot papers. This time they will have to cast four votes in three separate ballot papers. Such an arrangement will create confusion among the voters. The political parties also do not have enough time to educate them about the voting processes as they have little time for canvassing. With the election dates nearing, most voters have made up their minds as to whom to vote, but they are confused about how to vote.
The EC also did not have enough time to educate the voters about the ways of voting as it was entangled with a legal case over the ballot papers for several weeks. Had it been resolved on time, the EC would have been able to launch a voters’ education campaign even in rural and remote areas. Initially, the EC had planned to print only two separate ballot papers for parliamentary and provincial FPtP and another one for parliamentary and provincial PR list. When the Supreme Court ordered to print separate ballot papers for parliamentary and provincial FPtP it had already been too late to launch the voters’ education campaign in hilly and mountainous districts. All district election offices in the hills and mountains have done their best to educate the people about the voting process. But the campaign has been confined only to the cadres of the political parties, not to the general people who need it most. Still, the political parties can do much in the remaining three more days.
Many VAW cases in the country are not reported. As VAW is a serious social problem something should be done urgently so that the perpetrators are nabbed and stern action taken against them. Thus, it is encouraging to note that the National Women’s Commission on Tuesday has launched its helpline to avert violence against women and girls. Initially such a helpline will be provided from Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Nuwakot districts. This provision should be made available throughout the country as soon as possible. VAW cases can be reported by dialing 1145. At present this facility is available only to the Nepal Telecom and Ncell subscribers. The service would be provided by all the telecom services providers from December 10. This helpline has the support of the World Bank.
There is a need to raise awareness about the helpline so that the victims are encouraged to use it in case they are victims of VAW. This campaign is expected to mitigate the number of such cases as the perpetrators would not be able to escape action. The helpline could also provide the much need counseling so that the victims can be comforted from their terrible ordeal.
A version of this article appears in print on November 23, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.