** All photos in this blog from Ajaya Shah**
You may, or may not know, I chose to take last semester off from grad school because I wanted to stay in Nepal to support and experience the Constitutional Assembly elections planned for November. Unfortunately, they were postpone, no one was sure if they would actually happen, and the time came for me to return home. Finally, a new date was set for April 10th, and as that date approached, it looked like the election might actually happen. I, along with the entire country and a large part of the international community held my breath that it would be a peaceful and fair election.
A Guard at the Udayapur Polling Station
As I sit in Berkeley juggling my school responsibilities and collecting reports about Nepal from the news and via email exchanges with Nepali friends, I have become increasingly inspired and excited. Aside from a few violent incidents, the elections were relatively peaceful, and are being commended by international observers, even being called “remarkable and well executed,” by the Carter Center.
So much of my time in Nepal was characterized by an increasing appreciation for things I took for granted at home… the rule of law, good roads, infrastructure, voting… As I look at the pictures my friends have been sending me of election day I’m reminded of that, yet again.
Getting Her Ballot
Despite a slew of obstacles, including a very real threat of potential violence, people still lined up and waited for hours to vote. When they finally did get to vote, with the simplest of voting technology, they were given a ballot not full of names of candidates or parties, but of symbols to accommodate the large rates of illiteracy throughout the country and to make the process accessible to all.
In fact, a full 60% of the country turned out to vote – despite the rigid rules about voting in your home village, regardless of where you currently live. Even more inspiring is that incredibly, 51% of those who turned out were women! Not only does this validate all the work, done by so many people to try to empower women and help them understand the importance of their role in the process, but it serves as a testament to a profound shift in women’s participation in the public sphere.
The Lines To Vote
The results are slowly coming in, with surprising results as the Maoists (the party who wages civil war for 10 years) seems to be wining by a significant majority. But so far, it seems those results are considered accurate, and are not being widely questioned. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the grace which has encompassed this election so far is able to continue through the publication of the final results, and even further over the next few years as Nepal writes it’s new constitution.
I’m still holding my breath, but for the moment, I want to share my excitement and say: “Congratulations, Nepal!”
Crowd At the Polling Station
Posted By Nicole Farkouh
Posted Apr 13th, 2014