Wednesday, May 25, 2022

India holds major regional elections amid pandemic challenges

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India’s first major elections during the coronavirus pandemic began on Wednesday in the eastern state of Bihar, with social distancing and temperature checks outside election booths.

Voters will elect the 243-member Bihar legislative assembly in three phases, with results to be declared on Nov.10.

Holding safe elections has been a challenge for India’s Election Commission as the virus continues to spread.

The country had recorded nearly 8 million Covid-19 cases and more than 120,000 deaths.

Most voters were seen wearing masks and officials provided gloves as they cast their ballot.

Bihar has an electoral roll of more than 72 million voters, which is more than the population of France or Britain, and the last elections in 2015 saw a turnout of around 58 per cent.

More than 60 countries around the world have been postponing local and national elections, according to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

The Election Commission has limited groups campaigning door to door to three people and asked district administrations to ensure social distancing and limit crowds at campaign rallies.

But days into the staggered elections, most rules were flouted with candidates competing to pull the biggest crowd and raising fears of a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Three times chief minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) is seeking re-election at the head of an alliance that includes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

Its main rival is another alliance of the regional Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Indian National Congress and two left parties.


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