Incident Reports

Proxy voting blamed for highest turnout


Sudurpashchim, Bajura, Khaptad-Chededaha

The Election Commission has said that the highest percentage of polling was recorded in Bajura district during the first phase of federal parliament and provincial assembly elections on Sunday. More than 80 per cent votes were cast, allegedly due to proxy voting, in the district which figures low in the human development index (HDI).“I voted for up to 120 times. I lost the count after that,” a youth boasted in front of his friends at an eatery after returning from the polling centre in Martadi. There were many others in villages who shared that they had voted up to 70 times each. At the Barhabisa polling centre, two leaders of the left alliance and “democratic” alliance were overheard saying: “If there’s anyone willing to cast his/her vote, let’s take 100 to 150 proxy votes from both sides.”

One higher secondary principal found that someone else had already cast the vote in his lieu. After that, representatives of the political parties, election officials and other employees agreed to let him cast the ballot in another person’s name. “I could not say anything even though I felt bad,” he said, preferring anonymity. Krishna Shahi, polling officer for the Thuma centre, said he faced many threats and instances of misbehaviour while he prevented proxy voting. Though a majority of males are away working in Indian cities, the district saw 80 per cent voters in attendance. “Proxy votes were cast for whichever party has a stronghold in a particular area,” said Madanraj Jaishi, district coordinator of the Nepal Election Observation Committee. “The number of total votes cast outnumbers total listed voters in the villages.” Representatives of political parties cast votes on behalf of many villagers including women arguing that they are unable to vote correctly. Jitjang Singh, the polling officer for Pinalek, said they could do nothing when voters themselves allowed the party representatives to vote on their behalf.

Activists of both the leftist and “democratic” alliances made efforts to cast proxy votes in the district. Security personnel deployed at the polling centres said they the party representatives had not protested the practice. Observers said proxy voting is wrong and illegal. “It ridicules democracy,” said Shubharaj Padhayay, headmaster of the Martadi-based Malika Secondary School, estimating that only 60 to 65 per cent votes were genuine. There were 100 voting centres in the remote district, which recorded the highest percentage of polling in the local level elections as well. Invalid votes during the local polls accounted for 0.01 per cent. Prior to the voting day, a majority of voters had said they had no idea how to stamp the ballot properly.