Page last updated at 10:01 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 11:01 UK

Media applaud India's elections

Election officials pack and seal Electronic Voting Machines following the end of voting at a polling both in Varanasi
Most newspapers agree that the first phase of voting was successful

Indian media have applauded the first phase of the country's general elections on Thursday, despite disruption caused by Maoist rebels.

The Election Commission also said that it was "totally satisfied" with the polling "considering the complexity and challenges" it presented.

It said that it always expected the first round of the vote in the five-phase poll to be the most difficult.

Results are due on 16 May - a new parliament must be in place by 2 June.

Election Commissioner SY Qureshi said that the first phase of voting was deliberately held in Maoist-affected areas so that security forces could concentrate their resources.

The commission said that average turnout across all areas that voted in the first phase was between 58% and 62%.

'Ballots and bullets'

Most Indian newspapers agreed the first day of voting had been a success despite violence committed by Maoist rebels in the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa.

Eligible voters: 714 million
Polling centres: 828,804
Voting days: 16, 23, 30 April; 7, 13 May
Vote counting: 16 May
Leading candidates: Manmohan Singh (Congress), LK Advani (BJP), Mayawati

There were more than a dozen incidents where insurgents attacked polling stations, kidnapped voting officers and fought fierce gun battles with security forces.

At least 17 people were killed.

The worst of the violence took place in Jharkhand, where seven security personnel and two civilians were killed in a landmine blast blamed on the rebels.

Under the headline "Ballots stronger than bullets", the Times of India said that the high turnout was a "celebration and an affirmation" of the country's democratic ideals.

It also praised awareness campaigns over the past few weeks that encouraged middle class urban voters "to step out like never before to vote".

"Neither the blazing summer sun nor extremist gunfire could keep away the voter from the booth," the paper said.

It said the turnout was a setback for Maoists and other extremist groups who saw "a successful electoral democracy as a negation of their political beliefs".

The Hindustan Times said the fact that more than half of those eligible to vote in states affected by Maoist violence cast ballots was important, because it showed that people had "more faith in our flawed democracy than their version of rule through the barrel of a gun".

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