Nepal on Sunday conducted the first round of elections in the 281 local units of three provinces, bringing out millions of first-time local-election voters to the polling centers. The local polls, held after a gap of 20 years, were peaceful.
The local election, which is considered a serious test for the implementation of the new constitution, witnessed a huge voter turnout. The Election Commission citing ‘preliminary reports’ collected from the 34 districts in the three provinces till 10 pm said voter turnout was 73 percent.
“Voters lined up before 7 am and the level of participation by senior citizen, the disabled, the visually impaired and even those observing death rituals was encouraging,” Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav told reporters gathered at EC headquarters after the voting was over.
The voter turnout is slightly less than in the 2013 Constituent Assembly elections, when 79 percent of voters had appeared at the polling centers.
According to EC officials, candidates in two local units-Narphu of Manang district and Shey Phoksundo of Dolpa- were elected unopposed. The EC has cancelled the voting at three polling centers following clashes among the contesting parties. They include polling centers at Namobuddha Municipality in Kavre district, Melung Rural Municipality in Dolakha and Kalika Rural Municipality of Kalikot.
The EC will hold elections in these polling centers after consultations with the political parties. Voting in Dolakha was cancelled after a youth died when police opened fire during a clash between cadres of the ruling Nepali Congress and main opposition CPN-UML.
Altogether 49,337 candidates contested the elections held for 13,556 posts in the 283 local units. The new election law has ensured greater participation of Dalit and marginalized communities in local governance. The total number of women candidates stands at 19,322 while the male candidates number 30,005.
Election peaceful: Poll observers, experts
Poll observers and election experts have welcomed the local election. They said the election remained largely peaceful although voters experienced some difficulties in voting. “Large-size ballot papers, inadequate voter education and multiple symbols caused confusion among voters,” said Democracy and Election Concern Nepal General Secretary Mukti Rijal.
General Secretary Rijal said the number of invalid votes is likely to increase this time. “Intensive voter education for the second round local elections is essential if the invalid vote percentage is to be reduced,” said Rijal.
Former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety said successful completion of the first round of elections was welcome. “First round was a good start. The second round should also be made a success,” he said.