Nepal Holds Phase One of First Local Elections in 20 Years
On May 14, 2017, Nepal held phase one of the first local elections in 20 years. More than 14 million voters across 75 districts were registered to elect 34,908 local-level legislative and executive representatives over two phases – the second phase of the election is scheduled for June 14.
In phase one, five million citizens across 34 districts in provinces 3, 4, and 6 gathered in 6,641 polling stations to vote for seven local-level representatives: five ward members (a chairperson and four general members) plus an executive head and deputy executive head for their municipality (mayor and deputy mayor) or rural municipality (chair and deputy chair).
With an average voter turnout of 73 percent across the polling locations, the polling proceeded mostly peacefully amid high security provided by the local police and military. Voting had to be postponed in three polling centers due to security issues. Democracy Resource Center Nepal has reported that there were 81 incidents, 66 involving violence (including three deaths, 43 injuries, three vehicles damaged and 13 buildings damaged). Despite the short timeline between the announcement of these local elections (February 20, 2017) and Election Day, five domestic observer groups reported smooth polling station operations with enough ballots and polling materials at all observed centers.
Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 5 p.m. At the close of polling, ballot boxes were sealed and transported to the offices of the returning officers at each local unit by the respective polling officer with a security escort. After receiving the ballot boxes from all polling locations in the local unit, each returning officer will publish a notice specifying the date, place, and time for counting of votes.
Preliminary results will be announced by the returning officers immediately following counting and tabulation. The results will then be transmitted to the Election Commission of Nepal’s (ECN) headquarters to be reviewed for accuracy. The ECN will announce the official results when all the votes have been counted, then post all ward-level results on its website. The ECN’s goal is to finish counting within a week of Election Day.
A voter examines the Kathmandu ballot while waiting for an empty booth.
Following the promulgation of the new constitution in September 2015, these local elections are the next step in the country’s transition to federalism. The constitution stipulates that local, provincial, and federal elections must be conducted before the current term of the Federal Parliament expires in January 2018. In addition, the local-level elections provide a new opportunity for local participation in government. As the first local elections in 20 years, the election of local representatives is designed to pave the way for the devolution of power and resources to the local level and give people a stronger voice in how their communities are governed.
Ballot boxes are sealed and wrapped at the closing of the polls.