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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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Amid violence and instability, Nepal votes in historic poll

First parliamentary polls since 1999.

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KATHMANDU, Nepal - In a historic and landmark poll, Nepalis began voting for a new parliament on Sunday, in what became the Himalayan nation’s first parliamentary polls since 1999.

Nepal, which is one of the poorest countries in the world has witnessed over a decade of violence and instability and is hoping to turn over a new page. 

The elections also mark a new chapter in Nepal, a decade after the end of a civil war between Maoist peasant guerrillas and security forces - taking the nation that houses the Mount Everest, towards its long journey from a monarchy to become a federal republic.

On Sunday, as the voting began, the army remained on alert after a series of small blasts were reported in the run-up to the polls.

Army spokesman Nain Raj Dahal blamed a Maoist splinter group for the series of small blasts, adding that since Friday, security forces have defused around 30 improvised explosive devices.

Voting on Sunday, however, remained largely incident-free, with around 3.2 million people across the north of the country, that are eligible to vote in Sunday's first phase, heading to vote, while the more populous south is scheduled to vote in 10 days time.

Ila Sharma, a member of the Election Commission said in a statement, “Except for some minor complaints from a few places, polling in all areas is smooth and peaceful so far.”

The election commission has stated that the second phase of the election will take place on December 7, and that the final results won’t be known for several days because of the cumbersome counting procedures.

Local government representatives were last elected in Nepal in 1997. 

Their mandate as allowed to lapse after their five-year terms expired in 2002, at the height of the country's civil war.

Since then, bureaucrats filled those positions and many of them were appointed on the basis of allegiance to the main political parties.

However, the country has been riddled with corruption, that has hampered the delivery of basic services, including healthcare, the appointment of teachers at government schools and others.

In 2006, the peace deal that ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency began the impoverished Himalayan nation's transition from a Hindu monarchy to a secular republic.

A new constitution was written and finally adopted in September 2015.

Nepal has voted for a Constituent Assembly in 2008 and 2013 and this assembly doubled as parliament.

Now, more than 15 million eligible voters will pick a 275-member legislature, the first under the new constitution.

Voters will then choose representatives to seven provincial assemblies for the first time since Nepal abolished the monarchy in 2008.

Many within the country are hoping that the elections, which will establish the country's first provincial assemblies, will bring an end to political turbulence and limit the impact of the horse-trading in Kathmandu on much needed development in the rest of the country.

 

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