Peaceful voting in Mizoram's Serchhip by-poll; over 83 pc voter turnout recorded

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Aizawl, Apr 17 (PTI) More than 83 per cent of the 19,520 voters exercised their franchise in the by-election to the Serchhip assembly constituency where polling was held peacefully on Saturday, an official said.

The political fate of six candidates, including those of the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF), Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) and the Congress, has been sealed in EVMs.

Voting was held in 29 polling stations from 7 am to 7 pm and the polling percentage is 83.8 per cent, the official said.

During the polling, no untoward incident occurred, except the malfunctioning of a few EVMs which were replaced, he said.

The MNF has fielded its vice president and former Lok Sabha member Vanlalzawma, while the ZPM and the Congress have nominated Lalduhoma and PC Laltlansanga respectively.

The counting of votes will take place on May 2.

The bypoll was necessitated by the disqualification of incumbent MLA Lalduhoma under the anti-defection law in November last year.

The Election Commission (EC) has extended the duration of the polling period by an hour following appeals by political parties and the recommendation of the state chief electoral officer (CEO) to enable all voters to exercise their franchise, an official said.

Earlier, it was scheduled to be held between 7 am and 6 pm.

The official said that some political parties had recently again appealed to the EC to extend the duration of the polling period after their request of rescheduling the dates of polling and counting on account of religious obligation was rejected by the poll panel.

Chief Minister Zoramthanga, the ZPM and the Seventh- Day Adventist church had last month separately urged the EC to reschedule the dates of both the events as they fell on days important for Christians.

The poll panel had announced that the by-election to the Serchhip constituency in the Christian-majority state will be held on April 17, a Saturday, and counting of votes will take place on May 2 which is a Sunday.

Saturday is a sanctified day for certain Christian denominations in Mizoram especially the Seventh Day Adventist church which follows the Sabbath, a day of religious observance and abstinence from work. Sunday is also a holy day for Christians.

The EC has said that their pleas could not be entertained as the dates were fixed after taking into account several factors.

The poll period was extended apparently because the authorities of the Seventh-Day Adventist church have said that its members will be able to cast their votes only after sunset. PTI COR NN NN