Nepal holds final phase of landmark local elections

Source:AFP Published: 2017/9/18 23:13:40

A Nepali woman shows her inked thumb after casting her ballot during the third phase of the Nepalese local elections at a polling station at Birgunj Parsa district on Monday. Photo: AFP

Nepal on Monday completed its first local elections for nearly two decades, a key step in the country's protracted post-war transition to a federal democracy.

Most of the country has already voted, but the local polls had been repeatedly delayed in a southern province bordering India, which was the scene of deadly ethnic turmoil two years ago.

The government deployed troops and sealed the border before the ballot, fearing violence in the third phase of voting, which covered around 2.6 million people.

The election commission put turnout at just over 60 percent as booths closed. There were a few arrests for voter fraud but no reports of unrest, it said.

The province around the city of Janakpur was hardest hit by deadly monsoon flooding last month, which killed over 150 in Nepal and more than 1,200 across South Asia.

Some aid agencies, including the UN's World Food Program(WFP), suspended aid distribution before the polls. "Political tensions have been running high in these districts in the run-up to the September 18 elections, giving rise to security concerns that caused delays to scheduled food distributions," Pippa Bradford, WFP's Nepal head, told AFP.

Protests erupted after a new national constitution was adopted in 2015, nearly a decade after a long-running civil war ended with a fragile peace agreement.

Ethnic minority groups, especially in the south, said the charter left them marginalized and agitated for a greater stake in Nepal's future governance.


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