Saturday, April 18, 2009

Indian Parliament Elections 2009

The first phase of the 2009 Lok Sabha (Lower House or the People’s House of the Indian Parliament) elections recorded 58% to 62% voter turnout, the Election Commission said on Thursday in New Delhi.

A poll panel official said that the voting percentage ranged from a low 46 percent in Bihar in North India to a high 86 in Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea. The north-eastern Indian state of Nagaland, bordering Myanmar (former Burma), also witnessed a high turnout of 84%.

"By and large the elections were peaceful. Overall poll percentage was between 58 to 62 percent. Considering the complexities and difficulties, the elections were largely peaceful," Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan said in New Delhi after the first day's polls. He added there were incidents of violence blamed on Maoists in some states, like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand, that left 19 people dead, including nine civilians and 10 policemen. Many more people were reported injured.

Maoists had called for poll boycott in some states and warned that they would chop off the hands of those who went to vote. Balakrishnan said the five-phase elections were arranged keeping in mind the problems and challenges. He said 71 polling stations witnessed Maoist violence, while 86 saw "various types of disturbances". 76,000 polling stations faced Maoist threat, he said.

Among the states that witnessed high polling percentages were Lakshadweep (86%), Nagaland (84%), Manipur (68%), Andhra Pradesh (65%), Orissa (63%), Arunachal Pradesh (62%), Meghalaya (65%), Assam (62%), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (62%), Kerala (60%) and Mizoram (52%). According to Balakrishnan there could be slight change in the figure in Uttar Pradesh for which he put the tentative figure between 48% and 50%.

In Jammu & Kashmir, the turnout was 48%, while in Maharashtra it was 54%. Jammu & Kashmir elections were peaceful and the voting percentage jumped from 44.9% in 2004 to 48% in 2009.

Poll violence-hit Chhattisgarh had 51%, Jharkhand 50% and Bihar 46%. Kandhamal district in Orissa, which had witnessed large scale communal violence last year, recorded about 65% voting, the poll panel said.

Seven Indian States, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, were free of incidents of violence, Balakrishnan added.

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