By Press Trust of India: About 61 per cent polling was recorded on Sunday in Nepal’s parliament and provincial assemblies elections, marred by sporadic violence and clashes that left one person dead and disrupted voting at several polling stations, officials said.
The polling started at 7 am local time at over 22,000 polling centres and closed at 5 pm.
“The nationwide voter turnout has stood at around 61 per cent. This is likely to increase slightly as we continue receiving details from districts across the country,” Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya told reporters.
“This is certainly less than what we had expected,” he added.
The voter turnout is significantly lower as compared to the past two elections – 77 per cent in 2013, and 78 per cent in 2017.
More than 17.9 million voters were eligible to cast their votes to elect a 275-member House of Representatives and provincial assemblies.
Thapaliya said the elections were held largely in a peaceful manner except for a “few minor incidents”. He said that voting has been postponed in 15 polling stations in four districts as a result of such incidents.
He said the Election Commission has directed the concerned election offices in those districts to make necessary arrangements to hold the elections within two days.
The counting of votes will start tonight itself in three districts of Kathmandu Valley, he said, adding that the counting will end within a week.
One person was killed after being shot dead at a polling station in Nateshwari Basic School of Tribeni Municipality in Bajura. The 24-year-old man was shot dead by the police following a dispute between two groups after the voting was over, officials said.
A minor explosion took place near Sharda Secondary School polling station in Dhangadhi Sub-metropolitan City in Kailali district. However, there was no casualty, they said, adding that voting continued in the polling station despite the incident with just half-an-hour interruption.
Some incidents of heated arguments between party cadres were reported from 11 areas in Dhangadi, Gorkha and Dolakha districts. However, it did not affect the polling, they said.
Prime Minister and Nepali Congress (NC) president Sher Bahadur Deuba cast his ballot in his home district Dadeldhura. He voted at the Ashigram Secondary School polling centre at Ruwakhola in Ganyapdhura rural municipality-1 in the morning. Deuba had studied at this school.
Deuba has continuously won the election from Dadeldhura since 1991. He is running for the federal parliament member for the seventh time in this election, The Himalayan Times newspaper reported.
Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) chairman and former prime minister K P Sharma Oli cast his ballot at the polling centre situated in Suryabinayak Municipality in Bhaktapur district near Kathmandu.
Talking to reporters after casting his vote, Oli said that his CPN-UML-led alliance will secure a clear majority and form the next government by December 1.
“The UML will form a majority government, or at least a coalition government comprising parties that have forged an alliance with us in the elections,” he said.
CPN-Maoist Centre chairman and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” cast his vote at the polling centre located at Bharatpur Municipality in Chitawan district.
“It is most likely that the next government will be formed under the leadership of the Nepali Congress and I will contest for the post of Parliamentary Party leader to forward my claim for the top executive position,” NC general secretary Gagan Thapa said after casting his vote in Kathmandu constituency No. 4.
Another NC leader and former deputy prime minister Prakash Man Singh said the leaders of the five-party alliance will sit together to decide who will lead the next government and chalk out the future course of action.
Out of a total of 275 Members of Parliament, 165 will be elected through direct voting, while the remaining 110 will be elected through a proportional electoral system.
At the same time, voters also voted to elect representatives to seven provincial assemblies.
Out of a total of 550 members of the provincial assemblies, 330 will be elected directly and 220 will be elected through the proportional method.
Political observers closely watching the elections have predicted a hung parliament and a government that is unlikely to provide the required political stability in Nepal.
Political instability has been a recurrent feature of Nepal’s Parliament since the end of the decade-long Maoist insurgency, and no prime minister has served a full term after the civil war ended in 2006.
The frequent changes and fighting among parties have been blamed for the country’s slow economic growth.
There are two major political alliances contesting the polls — the ruling Nepali Congress-led democratic and leftist alliance and the CPN-UML-led leftist and pro-Hindu, pro-monarchy alliance.
Nepali Congress led by Prime Minister Deuba, 76, has formed an electoral alliance with former Maoist guerrilla leader ‘Prachanda’, 67, against former premier Oli, 70.
The Nepali Congress-led ruling alliance includes CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN-Unified Socialist, and Madhes-based Loktantrik Samajwadi Party while the CPN-UML-led alliance includes pro-Hindu Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Madhes-based Janata Samajwadi Party.
The next government will face challenges of keeping a stable political administration, reviving the tourism industry and balancing ties with neighbours — China and India.
Out of a total of 2,412 candidates contesting the election for federal Parliament, 867 are independents.
Among the major political parties, the CPN-UML has fielded 141 candidates while the Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Centre have fielded 91 and 46 candidates respectively.
Security has been stepped up in all 77 districts across the country with air-patrolling around polling stations and closing of international borders for 72 hours.