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World Briefing / India

Heat wave cuts voter turnout

April 24, 2009|TIMES WIRE REPORTS

A brutal heat wave, together with threats of violence from communist guerrillas, kept millions away from the polls in India's monthlong election.

The initially high turnout slowed to a trickle as summertime temperatures reached 111 degrees. The intense heat caused the death of one election official and the hospitalization of another in the eastern state of Orissa, said Pra- bhakar Sahu, a spokesman for the election commission.

The low numbers were expected to further complicate an election already characterized by a range of regional and caste-based parties and without any dominant central issues.

Polls indicate that neither the Congress Party, which leads the governing coalition, nor the main opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, will win enough seats in the 543-seat lower house of Parliament to rule on its own. That probably would leave India with a shaky coalition government.

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