Around 79.7% of the voters turned up for the eighth phase of the panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, reported Greater Kashmir. The polling took place between 8 am and 2 pm across 2,633 polling stations. The turnout was 49.6% in Kashmir region and 85.1% in Jammu region. One phase of voting remains to be held on December 11.

Before the polling, Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra said 6,306 candidates were in the fray for 331 sarpanch and 2,007 panch seats in Phase 8. Kabra said 43 sarpanch and 681 panch were elected unopposed in this phase. He said an electorate of 5,15,121 would vote for sarpanch constituencies and 4,19,775 for panch constituencies.

Kabra said 361 polling stations – 171 in Kashmir division and 190 in Jammu division – were categorised “hypersensitive” in this phase.

The Joint Resistance Leadership, a union of separatist groups comprising Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik, had asked people to observe a complete shutdown in the areas going to polls in the eighth phase, reported Kashmir Reader.

At the end of seven phases of the panchayat polls, the state recorded an overall voter turnout of 73.8%, with 44.4% in the Kashmir division and 83.2% in the Jammu division, Kashmir Reader quoted Kabra as saying. The nine-phased elections had started on November 17.

During the seventh phase of the elections, 75.3% of registered voters exercised their franchise. The highest turnout of 86.7% was recorded in Reasi district of Jammu region. The lowest, 13.1%, was recorded in Budgam district of Kashmir region.