A viral video on TikTok claimed that Tanahun Constituency No. 1’s ballot for the April 23, 2023 by-election lacked bell, the election symbol of the Rastriya Swatantra Party. Economist Swarnim Wagle was the party’s candidate in the district. (Wagle won the election).
What’s in the video?
In a heated conversation captured on a camera at a polling station, several people voice their dissatisfaction with the election officials. They ask why the symbol of the Rastriya Swatantra Party was missing. Allegations of election rigging dominate the conversation. Some suggest technical mistakes while others argue that it was a human error. Legal remedies and investigations are discussed, but one person urges them to call the election officer before proceeding with the voting.
The video makes it clear that the conversation occurred in a polling station.
Pramesh888 shared the video on TikTok on April 23, the day of the by-election. The post read: “In Tanahun, ballot papers without the bell symbol were distributed while the ballot papers with the bell symbol were missing, according to the post. 30 ballots were missing the election symbol. How come there is such rigging?”
The video garnered 1.1 million views and 61,000 likes and has been shared more than 4200 times.
The same day, Sunram Tamang, a TikTok user, posted a video with the caption, “Bell sign is absent on the ballot papers. Friends, what is going on in our nation? There have been almost 300,000 views of the video. Rabi Lamichhane, a candidate for Chitwan constituency no. 2 in south-central Nepal, has received a lot of support on TikTok from fans who allege that the video was part of a plot to defeat him.
We Googled the following terms in Nepali: “by-election bell symbol not found,” “Tanahun by-election ballot paper no bell symbol,” and “Chitwan ballot paper no bell symbol.” However, we couldn’t find any evidence supporting the claim in the viral video. We then watched the viral video’s comments. One of the comments claimed that it was shot in a voting booth at Tribhuvan Secondary School in the Banke district’s Kohalpur Municipality. A candidate there who was running as an independent complained the ballot paper didn’t contain his election symbol of a bulb.
This allowed Nepal Check to refine the keywords for the searches. We used keywords “Electric Bulb symbol Banke” [in Nepali]. We found the news about Arjun Jung Shah, an independent, who ran for the Banke 1 (2) constituency on November 20, 2022.
When we performed a Facebook search for Arjun Jung Shah, we found a video that had been posted on November 20, 2022, to Dharmarakshak Arjun’s page, with the caption: “Election fraud suspected in Kohalpur Ward No. 10 High School.” The video that went viral and the video that was posted on that Facebook page were identical. The original video shows a man who is also in the viral video. He says, “I am the candidate. I have campaigned the same way.” However, users have deleted this portion in the viral video.
Photos posted by Facebook account Dharmarakshak showed that the person who argued with the election officers was Arjun Jung Shah, the independent candidate. (However, according to the Election Commission, the name of the independent candidate for Banke 1 (Kha) was Amar Jung Shah, not Arjun Jung Shah). On April 25, 2023, details of an election expenditure were posted on the Facebook account. The caption of the post along with the photo of election expenditure details reads, “2023-04-25 (16:48) I have made it public on social media. I would like to inform everyone that I was a candidate for Banke constituency No. 1 [Provincial Assembly 2] in the House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly elections on November 20, 2022, and my election expenses details are as follows! Thank you.” In the expenditure details, the name of the candidate was Amar Jung Shah.
We also looked into the polling station where the video was filmed. We looked for the polling stations in Ward No. 10 of Kohalpur Municipality. We found Tribhuvan Secondary School was the only polling station in Kohalpur Ward No. 10, as per the list of polling stations from the Election Commission. Thus, we confirmed that the viral video was from this polling station.
Therefore, the viral video shows the voting during the House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly elections on November 20, 2022. The video doesn’t show the April 23 by-elections in Tanahun, Chitwan and Bara districts. Nepal Check concludes that the five-month-old video was edited and shared on TikTok to mislead people.
|Claim||Claimed by||Nepal Check Verdict|
|Video shows the election symbol of a bell missing from ballots in Tanahun and Chitwan districts during the polls on April 23, 2023.||TikTok and Facebook Users||Misleading|
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