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Rains dampen voting in Manipur, moderate turnout

Heavy rains impeded voting in the first of Manipur's three-phased assembly elections amid tight security on Thursday.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, Thoubal (manipur)
PUBLISHED ON FEB 14, 2007 05:07 PM IST

Police and authorities said there were no untoward incidents with polling going on smoothly. The only hurdle was the rain that forced people to stay indoors. Even so, an election official said there was moderate voter turnout till midday.

Voting opened at 7.30 am in 19 of Manipur's 60 assembly constituencies. It ends at 3.30 pm.

"Showers for about two hours did affect the turnout. But with rains stopping now we expect people to turn out in large numbers," an election official said.

"There were a few technical holdups with some electronic voting machines (EVMs) developing snags but we sorted them out."

Close to 600,000 voters are eligible to cast their franchise to decide the fate of 77 candidates in the 19 constituencies in the insurgency-ravaged districts of Thoubal, Ukhrul and Senapati. The total number of voters in Manipur is 1.7 million, out of nearly 2.4 million people.

"We have deployed adequate number of police and paramilitary troopers for the polling and we hope to have a free and fair vote," the official said.

In the second phase Feb 14, polling would take place in 29 constituencies, and the remaining 12 seats would go to the polls Feb 23. Voted will be counted Feb 27.

Thursday's vote would decide the fate of several prominent leaders including Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Speaker Manir Udin Sheikh and former finance minister Chungkhokai Doungel.

The chief minister is contesting from two constituencies - Thoubal and neighbouring Khangabok. Senior Manipur People's Party (MPP) leader L Tomba Singh is pitted against the chief minister in Thoubal.

"I am very excited as this is the first time I am voting," said T Singh, a college student.

The battle lines are drawn with the ruling Congress taking on regional challenger, the MPP. The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, dominates the agendas of all political parties.

The AFPSA, an anti-terror law that provides sweeping powers to the security forces in the region, is the focal point in the electioneering — almost all the opposition parties are demanding its repeal saying the "draconian legislation" was a slur on democracy as it infringed on basic human rights.

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