Defying a boycott call and threats of violence, more than 70 per cent of Nepal’s 12 million voters turned out in elections to the country’s second Constituent Assembly on Tuesday. The turnout registered record levels, Nepal’s Election Commission said, exceeding what was seen during the 2008 elections. In the capital Kathmandu, and some constituencies in Tarai, the polling exceeded 80 per cent.
“Today’s historic election has been very successful,” said Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety at a press conference in Kathmandu. National and international observers termed the election free and fair.
Counting of ballots in urban areas began on Tuesday night itself and some results could be expected within 24 hours. Polling was held in more than 18,000 centres. It was suspended in one centre.
The Home Ministry said polling had been largely peaceful. However, it said 24 people were injured in explosions reported from 16 places.
An alliance of parties calling on people to boycott the election said its protest was “successful”. Thabang village in western district of Rolpa district, a stronghold of the hard-line Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, which spearheaded the anti-election campaign, saw no voting.
The 601-member Constituent Assembly will double as Parliament through its five-year-term. While 240 members of the Assembly will be directly elected, another 335 members will be decided as per the share of votes received by their political parties. The House will have 26 nominated members. The Assembly’s primary responsibility is to write a new constitution, a task that the previous Assembly failed to accomplish.
Leaders of various political parties congratulated the people, the Election Commission and the government on the successful election.
The Chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ thanked the people and said the elections would pave the way for a new future.
Similarly, the president of the Nepali Congress, said the turnout was satisfactory and praised the security arrangements.
Earlier, voters in Harisiddhi village in Lalitpur district, part of the Kathmandu Valley, told The Hindu that they hoped the elections would lead to a constitution this time around. “Else, the country will be in danger,” said Bibek Sijapati, a 17-year-old student.
“I was excited to vote,” said a first-time voter, Ritu Maharjan, from Lagankhel, Lalitur. The 20-year-old walked with her mother and younger sister for more than an hour to reach the Harisiddhi booth.
Her mother, Dil Kumari Maharjan, who voted in the 2008 election, said she hoped the new government would create a business-friendly environment. “Parties behaved irresponsibly, I hope they will make amends,” said Ms. Maharjan, who owns a spice manufacturing outlet.
Man Lal Maharjan, a 75-year old from Harisiddhi, wanted the prices of essential commodities, which shot up in recent months, to come down.