Nepal’s first local elections in two decades passes off peacefully

Millions of Nepalis voted on Wednesday in the country’s first local elections for two decades, a key step in its post-war transformation from feudal monarchy to federal democracy.

The government had deployed troops and sealed the border with India, fearing violence in Wednesday’s second phase of voting. Police said a small bomb exploded in the west of the country, but there were no casualties and the polls passed off peacefully.

The elections began last month in other parts of the nation but were repeatedly delayed in the southern plains, which were shaken two years ago by deadly ethnic protests. Voting was taking place on Wednesday across around half the country of 26 million people, including large swathes of the south.

The local elections are supposed to be the final step in the peace deal that ended a 10-year civil war in 2006. Since then the country has suffered persistent instability, cycling through nine governments.

The government had repeatedly postponed the polls in the south due to objections from the local Madhesi ethnic minority, who say federal boundaries laid out in a new national constitution will leave them under-represented in Parliament.

Party to boycott

The Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, the main party representing the Madhesi community, has said it will boycott Wednesday's phase, raising doubts about the legitimacy of the vote.

More than 50 people died in 2015 when the Madhesi and Tharu ethnic minorities took to the streets. Most of the victims were killed when police fired at the demonstrators, a response condemned by rights campaigners, and tensions persist.

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Printable version | May 24, 2020 9:01:20 AM |

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