Nepalis vote for stability, peace in historic elections

BALEPHI: Nepalis across the country’s mountainous north voted on Sunday in elections that could herald change after 20 ruinous years marked by a bloody Maoist insurgency, a devastating earthquake and crippling political instability.
The historic vote marks the final step of a drawn-out peace process, which began in 2006 with the end of the civil war between the Maoists and the state.
More than two million people — around 65 per cent of eligible voters — cast their ballot for representatives in new national and provincial parliaments.
The two-phase elections will establish the country’s first provincial assemblies as laid out in a post-war constitution that aims to devolve power from the top-heavy central governments to seven newly created provinces.
Nepal’s tumultuous transition from monarchy to democracy has been marred by crippling instability that has seen 10 leaders hold power in 11 years — some of them more than once — hampering development and recovery from the earthquake that struck in 2015.
The areas that were worst hit by the quake, which killed 9,000 and destroyed half a million homes, voted on Sunday, with many expressing hope that sluggish reconstruction would be kickstarted by the political change.
“I hope to see more development and better services in our district,” said first-time voter Shanta Bhujel, 18, who cast his ballot in Chautara, a town east of the capital Kathmandu.
Polling station officials in Balephi, a small town in northern Sindhupalchowk district, sealed the plastic ballot boxes as the polls closed at 5 pm (1115 GMT) and loaded them into a truck to be transported to the district capital for storage.
Counting will only begin after the second phase of elections is held in the populous south on December 7, with results expected a few days later.
Elections were suspended and will be held again at two polling stations in the western district of Rukum after acid was sprinkled on ballot boxes and damaged the papers inside, said local official Bansi Kumar Acharya.
Meanwhile, voting was temporarily halted in another polling centre in the northeast after an explosive device was found. — AFP