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Nepalis vote for stability in historic polls

  • Published at 08:55 pm November 26th, 2017
Nepalis vote for stability in historic polls

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% 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 kick started by the political change.

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.

The new constitution, finally approved in 2015, mandates a sweeping overhaul of the political system, which should limit the impact of the horse-trading in Kathmandu on much-needed development in the rest of the country.

Rules under the new charter allocate a proportion of seats in the federal and provincial assemblies to women and people from indigenous communities and the lowest Dalit caste.

The rules will also weed out some fringe parties from the parliaments and raise the bar for ousting a prime minister, leading to hopes that the next government could be the first to last a full five-year term.

However, analysts warn that the impact of the changes could be limited, with the three parties that have dominated the political stage since the end of the conflict expected to take the lion's share of seats.

The Maoist Party of the former rebels has formed an electoral alliance with the communist CNP-UML, fielding candidates jointly in key races.

The powerful bloc has left the ruling party, the centrist Nepali Congress, on the back foot and forced to look to smaller parties in a bid to remain in power.