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Meet Mahendra Gwacha: Temporary Police Officer in Nepal

Mahendra Gwacha stood with pride as he listened to his supervisor's instructions at the Bagh Bhairab Temple in Kirtipur, Nepal, and then he and his fellow temporary police officers, or myadi prahari, got to work carrying tables and chairs from a nearby elementary school to transform the 900-year-old holy site to a polling place for the next day's constituent assembly election.

They carefully placed a table near a sculpture of the eight mother deities, as the polling chief and political party representatives continued to discuss the best way to set up the polling place. At a table nearby, poll workers handed out voting cards to local citizens, framed by a stunning view of the Kathmandu Valley and Himalayas. A short time later, ballots arrived from the election commission, and everyone observed as they promptly were locked away for safekeeping, to be guarded by a police officer until polls opened in the morning.

"I believe it is my responsibility to contribute toward keeping peace in this historic moment," said Gwacha, 33, an egg supplier by profession. Gwacha and more than 150,000 of his fellow Nepalis applied for these short-term positions – 45,000 were selected – to assist Nepal's police force as needed and maintain order in voting lines.

  • Mahendra Gwacha, 33, served as a temporary police officer during Nepal's 2013 constituent assembly election. "I believe it is my responsibility to contribute toward keeping peace in this historic moment," he said. (Photos: The Carter Center/D. Hakes)

  • Mahendra Gwacha and fellow myadi prahari carry tables from an elementary school into Bagh Bhairab Temple to set it up as a polling place for the election.

  • A Nepali policeman looks over the Kathmandu Valley from the Bagh Bhairab Temple polling place.

  • A Nepali policeman guard the entrance to the Bagh Bhairab Temple polling place as voters wait for their turn to enter on Nov. 19, 2013. (Photos: The Carter Center/G.Sherchan)

  • A Carter Center team arrives at the Bagh Bhairab Temple to observe voting.

  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former U.S. Ambassador Peter Burleigh confer as they observe voting at the Bagh Bhairab Temple polling place. (Photos: The Carter Center/D. Hakes)

  • A woman votes at the Bagh Bhairab Temple polling place.

  • A father and son walk together through the Bagh Bhairab Temple polling place.

On election day, he greeted those he knew, kept order in the lines, and helped voters find the proper polling station at the busy temple. More than 2,400 people were registered to vote at the temple's three stations. As the warm late-afternoon sun began to dip, the lines had dwindled, and voters trickled in until the polls closed. Then, Gwacha and other myadi praharis proudly cast their own votes. "I believe this time we will get our constitution," he said.

The Carter Center observed Nepal's constituent assembly election, a long-delayed vote to replace the assembly that was dissolved in May 2012 after failing to draft a new constitution. The Center found that the election was conducted remarkably well, especially in the face of attempts by boycotting parties to disrupt the process through violence.

Working to build peace in Nepal since 2003, the Center observed the country's first constituent assembly elections in 2008, and then conducted long-term political and constitutional monitoring until June 2013.

Related Resources
Learn more about the Center's Democracy Program
Slideshow | Waging Peace: Nepals 2013 Election

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