By Press Trust of India: Nepal’s parliament and provincial assembly elections recorded about 61 percent voter turnout on Sunday, with sporadic violence and clashes that left one person dead and polling disrupted in several polling stations, officials said.
Voting began at 7 am local time at 22,000 polling stations and ended at 5 pm.
Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapalia told reporters, “Countrywide voter turnout stands at around 61 per cent. It may increase slightly as we continue to receive details from districts across the country.”
“It’s definitely lower than what we expected,” he added.
Voter turnout is significantly lower than in the last two elections – 77 percent in 2013 and 78 percent in 2017.
More than 17.9 million voters were eligible to cast their ballots to elect a 275-member House of Representatives and Provincial Assemblies.
Thapalia said, “Except for a few minor incidents, the election was largely peaceful”. He said polling was suspended in 15 polling stations in four districts as a result of such incidents.
He said that the Election Commission has instructed the respective election offices of those districts to take necessary measures to hold the elections within two days.
Counting of votes will begin tonight in three districts of the Kathmandu Valley, he said, adding that the counting would be completed within a week.
One person was shot dead at a polling booth at Nateshwari Basic School in Triveni Municipality, Bajura. The 24-year-old man was shot dead by police following an altercation between the two groups after voting ended, officials said.
A minor explosion occurred near the Sharda Secondary School polling station in Dhangari sub-metropolitan city of Kailali district. However, there was no casualty, they said, despite the incident, polling continued at the polling station with a break of only half an hour.
Some incidents of heated arguments between party cadres were reported from 11 localities in Dhangari, Gorkha and Dolakha districts. However, they said that it had no effect on the vote.
Prime Minister and Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba voted in his home district of Dadeldhura. In the morning, he cast his vote at Ashigram Secondary School Polling Station in Ruakhola of Ganyapadhura Palli Municipality-1. Deuba studied in this school.
Deuba has won elections from Dadeldhura consecutively since 1991. He is contesting as a member of federal parliament for the seventh time in this election, the Himalayan Times newspaper reported.
Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) chairman and former prime minister KP Sharma Oli casts his vote at a polling station in Suryavinayak municipality of Bhaktapur district near Kathmandu.
Talking to reporters after the vote, Oli said his CPN-UML-led coalition would 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 with the parties that have allied with us in the elections,” he said.
CPN-Maoist Center Chairman and former Prime Minister Pushp Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” cast his vote at a polling station located in Bharatpur municipality of Chitwan district.
“Most likely 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 put forward my claim for the top executive post,” NC general secretary Gagan Thapa said after casting his vote. Polling in seat no. 4 of Kathmandu.
Another NC leader and former deputy prime minister Prakash Man Singh said the leaders of the five-party alliance will lead the next government and sit together to decide 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 proportional representation.
At the same time, voters also voted to elect representatives to seven provincial assemblies.
Out of the total 550 members of the Provincial Council, 330 will be directly elected and 220 will be elected through the proportional system.
Political observers closely following the election predicted a hung parliament and a government that is unlikely to provide much-needed political stability in Nepal.
Political instability has been a recurring feature of Nepal’s parliament since the end of a decade-long Maoist insurgency, and no prime minister has served a full term since the civil war ended in 2006.
The country’s slow economic growth has been blamed on frequent changes and infighting between parties.
Two main political alliances are contesting the elections – the ruling Nepali Congress-led Democratic and Leftist Alliance and the leftist and pro-Hindu, pro-monarchist alliance led by the CPN-UML.
The Nepali Congress led by Prime Minister Deuba, 76, has formed an electoral alliance with former Maoist guerrilla leader ‘Prachanda’ (67) against former Prime Minister Oli, 70.
The Nepali Congress-led ruling coalition includes the CPN-Maoist Centre, the CPN-Unified Socialists and the Madhesh-based Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, while the CPN-UML-led coalition includes the pro-Hindu Rashtriya Republic Party and the Madhesh-based Janata Samajwadi Party.
The next government will face the challenge of maintaining a stable political administration, reviving the tourism industry and balancing relations with neighboring China and India.
Out of a total of 2,412 candidates contesting the Federal Parliament elections, 867 are independents.
Among the major political parties, CPN-UML fielded 141 candidates and Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Center fielded 91 and 46 candidates respectively.
Security has been beefed up in 77 districts of the country with air patrols around polling stations and closure of international borders for 72 hours.