Several reporters working for the Kathmandu Post went to various polling booths on the Election Day in Kathamndu. Here is there observation:
Koteswor Campus Polling Booth
When I reached Koteswor Multiple College at Mahadevsthan of ward number 35, it was about 8:15 in the morning. No one was there in the lines separately marked by a rope for women and men. Meanwhile, Laya Sangroula, an official of Nepal Television, came up with his two daughters. As he tried to go into the polling station, his daughters asked him not to go. He, however, told his daughters that he would return soon without casting vote and went inside.
I then went to Merry Land Public School polling station at Subidhanagar and requested the polling officer that I wanted to vote though my name was not in the voters list. The officer didn’t allow me to vote. In the meantime, RNA Lieutenant General Rukmangat Katuwal came to the booth in civil dress to cast his vote. He asked the polling officer about the turn out. The officer said it was very poor. Then he asked the officer not to allow any media person inside the polling station. Merry Land polling station had the total of 1839 voters. Most of the locals refused to vote. Many were seen standing outside a tea shop and observing voters.
Shiva Lal Poudel, an army officer, came to Koteshwor Campus to vote. He didn’t have voter identity card but displayed the army identity card. He had apparently come to vote as Shiv Poudel, whose name was in the voters list. When the polling officers asked his father’s name, he could not answer. Then the polling officer asked him to tell his birth date. He also failed to tell the birth date as appeared in the voter’s list. Then the polling officer returned him denying to allow him to vote.
Out of 2193 voters, only 17 voters had cast votes till 10:30 in Koteswor. Locals outside the polling station were seen jeering at voters and the latter were seen walking fast, with their heads down.
Milan Vidyamadir Polling Booth, Anamnagar
At Milan Bidhya Mandir at Anamnagar not a single person turned up to cast vote till 9 am. However, many people were desperately waiting outside to see if someone would turn up.
I visited the center for three times. At one time security personnel were reading newspaper while at another time one security personnel was playing with children.
At 8:40 am I was at Nagar Bikash Samiti polling center, Anamnagar. Not a single person had come there to vote. At 8:45, I reached to Padmodaya polling center, five people were seen casting their votes. During next 15 minutes of my stay there, only two came to use their franchise.
Director General of the Department of Forests Dr Udaya Raj Pandey had to return without voting as his name was not in the voters’ list at the Kanya Campus.
Contrary to the Election Commission’s assurance that there would no presence of RNA personnel inside the booths, in many polling centers, RNA personnel were seen guarding the ballet boxes.
A ‘mobile team’ comprising around 20-30 young people visited different polling centers and cast vote. The people who claimed to be close to Home Minister Kamal Thapa led RPP were first seen at Nagar Bikash Samiti Poling center at around 12:30 pm.
The mobile team then moved to the Milan Bidhya Mandir polling center. Having known their plan, this scribe along with two other journalists followed them covertly.
The team then went to Baneshwore area. I then found them coming from EPS School polling center. I followed them to the polling center at Baneshwore School. They then cast vote there as well.
Talking to journalists, one girl member of the team said that she was visiting polling centers as she holds a “special pass”, while another said she has pass from Radio Nepal. They were allowed to enter in each polling centers without any obstruction while other independent journalists were not allowed to enter.
Nitya Nanda Timsina
Pashupati Campus Polling Booth, Chabahil
It was 9:30 am. A private van (Lu 1 Cha 68) geared to a stop before the main entrance of the Pashupati Campus in Chabahil where voting was going on. The vehicle dropped off half-a-dozen young men and sped away. The young men with red slips in hand made their way towards the voting booth after being briefly stopped by election officers.
A middle-aged onlooker, who was watching the election scene from outside the gate pointed his finger and said, “I could not count beyond seven voters entering that gate.” This scribe followed the men and requested one of the election officers if I could caste vote without a voter’s ID Card.
The officer denied the request. He also turned back a few others who had not found their names in the electoral list. I turned to a police constable and asked if I could still vote without my name in the voters list, he whispered in my ear, “You could, wait for others to finish.”
Adharsha High School, Madhyapur, Thimi
At 10:30 AM at Adarsha High School polling booth in Madhyapur Thimi about two dozen political activists led by former mayor Madan Krishna Shrestha chanted slogans against the election. Police stationed just 50 meters away did not intervene. As the polling was ending, the mayoral candidate arrived at the scene in a van and offered his greetings from inside the van.
The poll booth at Adarsha Secondary School, Sanothimi was also deserted when I arrived there at 11 AM. When asked about voter turnout, a senior police officer said it was 30, but a junior officer whispered ‘just nine’. Booths at Kaushaltar and Lokanthali also saw very low turnout, just 2.5 percent by 1 PM. Political activists were hanging around discouraging prospective voters, but they were later dispersed.
Post B Basnet
EPS School Polling Booth, New Baneshwor
Security forces stationed outside English Preparatory School at New Baneswor, which housed a polling booth, seemed to be desperately waiting for the voters, as it was already time for voting to start. After a few minutes, a middle-aged man strode out of sight fast after casting his vote. Other voters turned up sporadically.
A policeman was throwing tantrums at the government for slapping a ban on vehicular movement, which, he said, was the reason behind such a low voter turnout.
More people seemed to crowd the Cooperative Training Center, another polling booth at New Baneswar. But the total number of votes caste there by 2.35 PM was about 200, out of 1,847 total eligible voters. A policeman warned a journalist not to take pictures.
Bhanubhakta Secondary School
7.45 am – 8.30 am: (Durbar school, opposite Ranipokhari)
At Durbar school, a cycle mechanic Sampurna Jyoti Tuladhar, 44, was the second voter to enter at about 8.10 and he came out almost 20 minutes later. What took him so long? “In the past political party cadres would tell us the page number and the symbol to vote for,” he justifid the 20-minute voting time. “This time it was difficult to find out who to vote for.” Tuladhar says he voted since he was tired of old leaders and wanted new ones to take charge.
8.35 am – 3.15 pm: (Buddha Stupa premises, Mahabouddha)
There are just a few voters. A voter – Mani Ram Kandel – was turned away as his name did not figure in the voters’ list. No queue at any time, with the maximum number of voters at any time not crossing seven.
Nepal Kumar Mishra, 60, of Mahabouddha was absolutely sure why he voted. “I am fully behind the king and he must be supported.” What about the parties boycotting the poll? “What boycott? The parties are Maoists and vice versa.”
But not everyone shared his views.
“Not only do I fear for my life but these polls have no meaning at all,” Raj Kumar KC of Mahabouddha asserts. “This election has neither, international credibility nor will it solve the existing problems.” At about 3.15 pm, 162 of the 1893 votes were cast – 8.5 per cent.
Mahendra Adarsha Vidhya Mandir, Satdobato
There was relatively more turnout of voters in this polling booth. Supporters of Ward No 15 Chairman candidate, Krishna Bahadur Rai, were making rounds of locals’ houses to bring in more voters. An elderly said he was forced to cast vote when he had gone there just as an observer. “They didn’t let me go without casting vote,” he said.
Royal Academy Pooling Booth, Kamaladi
There were four voters-two representatives of the mayoral candidate supported by Home Minister Kamal Thapa and two general public-in the first 21 minutes since polling station opened in Kamaladi. Of the four, one suddenly left the scene without casting his vote. Another requested that his photo not be taken and told us only his first name, Rishi. For two hours, till 10:15 there were only 22 votes cast.
In Narayanhiti station, seven cast their votes in 39 minutes since the polling began. There was free access for journalists during the first 35 minutes but the police’s communication channel at 8:36 circulated orders to all security personnel not to allow any journalists into the polling station, and then we were forced to get out.
The polling station at Padmodaya High School was also almost empty and the polling staff seemed to be yawning on their chairs till 11:30AM. During my 48-minute stay there, three to four women cast votes. “When there is no candidate to contest, how can one expect people to cast votes,” an APF personnel asked a journalist.
Kosh Raj Koirala
No one turned to vote until 8.57 a.m. The polling station looked as if it was a security post manned by the army and police personnel. Only four people had turned up at the site to cast their vote at 9.30 a.m.
Meanwhile, some ‘higher authority’ through walkie-talkie ordered the police deputed there not to let any journalists, photojournalists, human rights activists and any diplomat to enter the polling booth. Locals were behaving like it was any other day.
Most voters did not know the candidates they were voting for. Many people, who did not have their names in the electoral list, had also reached the site. They were however returned by the police personnel, saying they were not eligible to cast vote. None of the agents of the contesting parties could be found.
A 52-year-old said he cast the vote because he didn’t want to lose a government job by not exercising the franchise, as the chief secretary has strictly directed the civil servants to do so. “However, I don’t know why I’m voting,” he said.
In the TU Exam Comptroller’s Office, Balkhu, only 28 voters including 81-yearo-old Radha Dev Shrestha had cast votes by 11:30. Out of 1962 registered voters, only 71 had cast votes by 4:35 pm.