Millions vote in Nepal in crucial local elections

Nepalis vote for local representatives after yearlong delay because of insurgency and lengthy constitution drafting.

Millions of people in Nepal have voted in the second phase of local elections to choose municipal and village councils despite threats from ethnic groups that oppose the elections.

More than 162,000 security forces were deployed in the voting areas.

The local elections were held for the first time in two decades in the Himalayan nation, which was wracked by a long-running Maoist uprising followed by a yearlong delay in passing a new constitution.

Voting took place in three of Nepal’s seven provinces. Three other provinces held elections last month, and another will vote in September.

Ethnic groups in southern Nepal have called for a boycott of the polls, saying their demand for more territory in their province needs to be addressed first.

Members of the largest of the groups, the Madhesi, say their population demands far more territory than the province they were granted by Nepal’s new constitution.

The constitution, adopted two years ago, sparked months of protests by the ethnic groups, leaving 52 people dead.

The government has been trying to convince the Madhesis to join the elections, postponing voting in their province to September 18 in hopes of reaching an agreement.

More than 62,000 candidates were contesting 15,038 positions on Wednesday.

Crucial local posts have been occupied by government-appointed bureaucrats because elections could not be held amid delays in drafting the new constitution.

Surya Prasad Sharma, spokesman of the Election Commission said rains had delayed voting in several polling centres in the southeastern Jhapa district.

“People have showed up at polling stations since early morning. They have turned out in huge numbers,” he said.

The first round of elections were held in mid-May, with voter turnout of more than 70 percent.

Source: News Agencies