The Carter Center said that despite political tensions and logistical and operational challenges, the voting process in Nepal’s 2017 federal and provincial elections has generally been well-conducted.
The Center said that today’s statement is a preliminary one. Counting is still ongoing, and the final tabulation and publication of results will not be completed for several days. Because of this, The Carter Center cannot yet provide n assessment of several key processes or make an assessment of the conduct of the electoral process as a whole.
The Center said that it will continue to observe counting and vote tabulation and will remain in Nepal to observe the post-election environment, releasing its final report only after the entire electoral process is complete.
If the remaining stages of the process are completed successfully and transparently, the election will be a positive step in implementing the country’s new constitution and consolidating its political transition.
The Carter Center observed both phases of Nepal’s election. On Phase 1 elections day, on Nov. 26, 16 observers visited 68 polling centers in the six provinces where voting took place. For Phase 2 polling on Dec. 7, a total of 64 observers from 34 countries were mobilized across all seven provinces, visiting 214 polling centers. In total, the Center observed election-day procedures in 32 districts and 282 polling centers.
Carter Center observers assessed the conduct of voting on both election days as positive in 97 percent of polling centers visited. Voting was conducted in a peaceful, orderly manner, although ongoing violence occasioned a heavy security presence at all polling locations. Some issues were observed in assuring the secrecy of the vote, family voting, and improper assisted voting, but these cases were relatively isolated. Observers reported that party and candidate agents were present in 97 percent of polling centers visited, and domestic observers were active in 32 percent of those centers.
Counting for both phases of elections began after polling closed on Dec. 7. At the time of this statement, many counting centers, especially in Phase 2 districts, had just begun their work. Carter Center teams are observing the counting of ballot papers in 24 of the 77 counting centers.
It is important to note that observers’ access to the counting process has been restricted in several locations, which hinders the effectiveness of election observers. The Center urges the Election Commission of Nepal to ensure that all aspects of counting and tabulation of votes, including at the central level, are fully open to international and domestic citizen observers.
The Carter Center commended the authorities, particularly the ECN, for organizing the elections within the constitutional deadline despite political tensions, logistical and operational challenges, and tight timelines. It further commended the ECN for its efforts to ensure that as many citizens as possible were registered before the elections were called, allowing close to 1.4 million additional registrations. To ensure maximum participation, the ECN allowed registered voters without a voter ID to vote with any other ID.
However, the Center said, the fact that hundreds of thousands of polling staff and security personnel were unable to exercise their right to vote is a significant issue and not in accordance with previous Nepali practice or with international standards.
In addition, the Center expressed concern about the lack of representation for women and minorities and noted that voter education efforts were insufficient. The complete report is available here.
According to a press release issued by Carter Center, the Center’s election observation mission has been in Nepal since October 2017, following an invitation from the Elections Commission of Nepal.
The elections were held simultaneously but in two phases: on Nov. 26 and Dec. 7. The Carter Center mission was led by former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai and former U.S. Ambassador Peter Burleigh.
Following the arrival of five core team experts, 14 long-term observers were deployed throughout the country in November to assess the electoral preparations. They were joined by a short-term delegation for Phase 2, bringing the total number of observers on the ground on Phase 2 election day to 64.
The Carter Center mission will continue to observe counting and vote tabulation and will remain in Nepal to observe the post-election environment. The Carter Center assesses elections against the national legal framework and international standards for democratic elections and conducts its observation missions in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.