Province 1 assigned NIWF Observers from the 2022 Nepalese General Election share their Experience

NIWF under the support of the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) was able to train and appoint 158 Observers for the 2022 Nepalese General Election throughout the 7 provinces of Nepal. Firstly, the election supervising training (Observer role) was presented both virtually on the 14th of November 2022 and physically on the 15th of November 2022. 

Former Defense Secretary Begendra Sharma Poudyal imparted details regarding the election of members of the House of Representatives and the Provincial Assembly, the constitutional and legal system, electoral system, Legal arrangements related to incorporation, elections program and election preparation, polling station, ballot, voting, and so on. Whilst NIWF’S Tak Tamang, further elaborated on the Election Code of Conduct 2079 of the supervising organization and the observer Code of Conduct and Responsibilities, Concept of Supervision, and Policy on Supervision and institutional arrangements.

Here are two reports presented by the election Observers from Province 1 assigned by NIWF for a brief insight into the election centers they were appointed to. 

Background of Province 1: One of the seven provinces in Nepal that operates under the Federal system is the freshly created Province 1. Twelve districts make up Province 1, which extends from Mount Everest; the highest mountain in the world to one of the greenest districts in Ilam and down to the tranquil Koshi Tappu wetland, well-known for its wildlife reserve. This province is home to a diverse population with a range of cultures and languages. About 17.5% of the total 25,905 km square land area, is covered by the province. The province is surrounded by various mountains, including Mt.Everest, Kanchenjunga, and Ama Dablam, and several significant eastern towns, including Birtamod, Birat Chowk, Damak, Dharan, Itahari, Triyuga, and Mechinagar. Its capital is the industrial city of Biratnagar. The western border of the province is circumvented by the Koshi, the largest river in the country.

According to the 2021 Nepal census, there are around 5 million people in the province, with a population density of 190 per square kilometer. As per the 2011 Nepal census the province had around 4.5 million people. The province has a wide range of ethnic groups. The Chhetri constitute the largest group, accounting for 14.58% of the population. Madheshi ranks second with (14.26%). Hill Brahmin (11.98%) follows. Other Khas Arya groups are the Kami (3.27%) and Damai(1.78%). Indigenous groups such as Rai (11.26%), Limbu (8.01%), Tamang (4.62%), Magar (4.13%), Newar (3.68%), Sherpa (1.40%) and Gurung (1.36%). Some Terai groups include Tharu (4.10%), Musalman (3.55%), Rajbanshi (2.47%), Musahar (1.35%), Yadav (1.30%), and Santal (1.11%). – (GON, 2021)  

Voting System in Province 1: The province features 56 provincial seats and 28 parliamentary seats, and it utilizes the first-past-the-post voting system established by the Constituency Delimitation Commission.

(Source: Nepal Outlook)

Observer Maya Rai poses outside the voting booth of the Election center.

Report 1 by:

Observer: Panchmaya Tamli

Place of posting: Gyanodaya Secondary School, Dharan Sub-Metropolitan Ward No- 11

Observer Report 1 by Panchamaya Tamli : On 20th November 2022, the House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly member elections were completed in a peaceful manner at GyanodayaSecondary School New Road under Ward No. 11, Dharan Sub-Metropolitan City, Sunsari.

Number of Voters: Out of a total of 9777 voters in the entirety of the Ward-11 polling station, the Gyanodaya Secondary had 5017 voters in total with 2608 women while 2409 were male voters. The majority of the voters in this polling station were Indigenous people. It was very liberating for me to be able to see so many people from indigenous communities actively participating in this event.

Appointed Personnel for each voting booth: 10 booths and 40 ballot boxes each were placed in this specific center. Each group was assigned one polling officer, amassing a total of 10 Polling Officers,with 8 government employees in each group, there were a total of 80 government employees. and 2 volunteers in each group, a total of 20 volunteers. A total of 120 volunteers were assigned with an almost equal quantity of women and men. A total of 51 security personnel including 15 women and 36 men were assigned to this polling station. This contributed more to the safety of women as we tend to feel safer around women safety personnel. 

Party Representatives and issue of voting for the right representatives by the public: A total of 120 representatives were appointed from various parties, including 49 women and 71 men. Although 5017 votes fell out of 9777 total voters in the polling station, there was not much enthusiasm among the voters. Even after entering the polling station, most of the voters were confused about whom to vote for. Despite this situation, none of the representatives from any party interfered to manipulate the votes or hint at any indication to vote for their party. In this sense, it seemed that the code of conduct of the Election Commission was well followed in the polling station.

Could Observers and Journalists take pictures of the booths? Journalists and observers were initially barred from entering this polling booth in Dharan. Later, after speaking with the polling officer, the observers were allowed to enter, but they were prevented from taking pictures of the ballots even from outside the bamboo enclosure. But in the course of the voting process, pictures were allowed to be taken of ballots from outside the bamboo enclosure. This was only allowed after the voting was formally over and not during the ongoing process of voting. 

Issues in the polling station: This polling station, which was the second largest voter center of the Dharan sub-metropolitan city, was found to be very narrow. Perhaps due to the lack of space, no separate arrangements were made for the persons with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant, and the sick at this polling station. Despite the structural issue, since the presence of the voters was thin, there wasn’t much trouble raised. 

It was seen that the persons with disabilities and the elderly were being assisted by security personnel. No discrimination was seen between male and female voters in the polling station. No discrimination was evident against the indigenous communities present as well. Finally, the ballot boxes were sealed in front of the representatives of all the parties, and the ballot boxes were taken safely to the hall of the Municipality.

Report 2 by:

Observer: Priya Rai

Place of posting: Suryodaya Municipality, Ward-10, Fikkal Secondary School

Observer Priya Rai captures a picture with her official Observer Jacket outside the premises of the voting booth.

Observer Report 2 by Priya Rai: On the 20th of November 2022, the House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly member elections were completed in a peaceful manner at Suryodaya Municipality, Ward-10, Fikkal School, one of the three polling centers in Fikkal Bazaar.

Number of Voters: While 2503 people registered the voting, only 1362 arrived to vote on the day of the Election. As the majority of the people residing in Suryodaya are indigenous populations, the majority of the voters were indigenous people. There was a total of 12 Ballot Boxes within the voting premises. 

Appointed Personnel for each voting booth: A total of 24 Govt officials were present to monitor the election, out of which 16 were men and 8 were women. There were 12 volunteers including 8 men and 4 women. There was a total of 3500 voting papers out of which only 1365 were used. Mr. Netra Prasad Pokharel was the main Voting Officer with 23 other government officers monitoring the election. 

Security and safety for voting systematically: There were no incidents of any form of harm against indigenous women, candidates, Observers, and Election Monitoring Officers. There were a total of 15 male security personnel and 4 women security personnel with 19 security personnel monitoring the voting booths. The election carried on smoothly with cooperation from both the voters and the security personnel and election monitors guiding through. 

Code of Conduct and Systemization for Safe Voting: Observers appointed by NIWF were granted a smooth hassle-free entrance to carry out our jobs. However, due to the strict code of conduct, we were not allowed to take carry any form of electronics with us into the premises. No incidents occurred out of the ordinary and the voting took place smoothly. Elderly voters, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities were given special priority in order to vote conveniently and safely. There was no incident of foul play or suspicious activity by any person within the polling center. 

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