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Nepal votes

Sunday, May 14th, 2017
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Pic: Bikram Rai

Turnout in Sunday’s local elections was between 55-80 per cent in polling booths in three of the new seven provinces. Pic: Bikram Rai

Nepal successfully held the first round of local elections on Sunday,with about 60 per cent of voters turning out to cast their ballots, offering hope that devolution to local governments will lead to development and economic growth. It was the first local election in two decades, and also the first under the new Constitution promulgated by an elected assembly in September 2015 for much more empowered ward, village and municipal governments.
Despite stray incidents of electoral violence, the Election Commission (EC) registered a high voter turnout, as high as 84 per cent in some polling centres in Kathmandu, Kavre and Lalitpur. Voters lined up throughout the day, despite pouring rain in some places, to cast their votes to elect Mayors, Village and Municipal Council chiefs and Ward Committee members.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal casts his vote. Pic: RSS

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal casts his vote in Chitwan on Sunday morning. Afterwards, he admitted there had been an electoral alliance with the NC to favor his daughter, Renu, who is standing for mayor.
Pic: RSS

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal cast his vote in Bharatpur in Chitwan, where his daughter Renu is a mayoral candidate, and whose chance was boosted after Dahal convinced the NC to withdraw its candidate for Mayor. UML Chair KP Oli voted in Balkot of Bhaktapur.

But NC President Sher Bahadur did not cast his ballot on Sunday because the polls will take place in his far-western hill district of Dadeldhura only in the second phase.

Voters line up outside the polling station in Basantapur.

Voters line up outside the polling station in Basantapur amidst propped up earthquake damaged monuments.

Voting was orderly and peaceful in most places, although lines were longer than usual because of large ballot papers and some confusion about the process. There were stray incidents of violence and voting was temporarily halted in a few places  few places. The EC has decided to begin counting all votes as soon as ballot boxes are collected.

Among the places clashes were reported were polling stations in Sindhupalchok and Humla, and one person was killed when police opened fire at a group allegedly trying to capture a booth in Dolakha. The deceased has been identified as 35-year-old Nahkul Bhujel, an NC supporter.

NC Dolakha President Tara Bahadur Koirala dismissed police’s claim that Nahkul was involved in booth capturing. He said police opened fire at NC supporters returning home after casting their votes, and claimed that at least 30 have been injured.

In Sindhupalchok, police had to open fire in the air after a clash between NC and UML supporters threatened to spiral out of control. In Humla, NC cadre clashed with supporters of Prakash Bahadur Shahi, an NC leader who registered independent candidacy for Kharpu village Chair after being denied a ticket by the party.

Home-made explosives were found in a few places in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Kavre and Dailekh, possibly planted by Netra Bikram Chanda’s Maoist party that threatened to disrupt local elections. But the army promptly defused the devices, some of them in controlled explosions. One improvised explosive did go off in Nuwakot, but no one was injured.

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