Kathmandu: Millions of Nepalese on Sunday voted in the country’s first local-level polls in two decades as the Himalayan nation took a crucial step towards cementing democracy amid political turmoil.
Authorities recorded a 71 per cent voter turnout with sporadic election-related violence reported and one person killed in police firing in Dolakha district, 120 km east of Kathmandu. The Election Commission has postponed polling in three centres — one each in Kavre, Kalikot and Dolakha districts.
Date for fresh voting will be announced shortly, officials said. “First phase of local poll passes peacefully with estimated 71 per cent turnout,” the Election Commission said in a statement. The voting began at 7 AM in almost all the 18,438 polling centres and concluded at 5 PM. “The first phase of local polls have concluded in a peaceful manner,” said Mr Yadav.
Ballot boxes from remote locations are being airlifted to the respective headquarters in some districts, he said. Vote counting in Kathmandu and Lalitpur municipalities are expected to begin tonight while counting in other parts of the countries are likely to begin tomorrow morning. Though the voting process was by-and-large peaceful, some instances of violence reported from a few polling stations.
The first phase of the local elections took place peacefully at 281 local units out of 283 in province 3, 4 and 6, said the poll body. Out of the 283 local bodies where first phase of elections were scheduled, voting was held in 281 bodies as candidates were elected unopposed in two units, it said. Two rural municipalities, one each in Manang and Dolpa districts, unanimously elected their representatives without voting.
According to a poll body spokesperson, authorities have registered a record 71 per cent voter turnout. Altogether 4.9 million voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the first phase of elections. Nearly 50,000 candidates were vying for the position of mayor, deputy mayor, ward chairman and ward member in 281 municipalities.
The second round of polls in provinces 1, 2, 5 and 7 will be held on June 14. “I urge all the electors to participate in this historic local-level election and use their sovereign voting rights. In a democracy, people can exercise their sovereign rights through election,” said Prime Minister Prachanda in a statement.
“On the one hand, the local polls have stood as a linkage to direct Nepal’s peace process to a logical conclusion, while on the other, it can be looked upon as a milestone to end the unitary and centralised governing system and establish federal governance,” he said.