Nepal goes to the polls for historic vote
Millions of Nepalis headed to the polls on Nov. 26 for a historic election billed as a turning point for the impoverished Himalayan nation, hoping to end the ruinous instability that has plagued the country since the end of a bloody civil war a decade ago.
The two-phase elections for national and provincial parliaments are the first under a new post-war constitution born out of a peace deal that ended the 10-year Maoist insurgency in 2006 and set the country on a path from monarchy to democracy.
It took nine years after the end of the conflict for the new charter to be agreed as a series of brittle coalition governments bickered over the country’s future as a federal democratic state.Many hope that the elections, which will establish the country’s first provincial assemblies, will bring an end to political turbulence and limit the impact of the horse-trading in Kathmandu on much needed development in the rest of the country.Polling stations in Chautara, a town east of Kathmandu, were still busy mid-afternoon with lines of voters waiting in the bright sun to cast their ballots.
“It is hard to hope for change, but I am still voting,” said 78-year-old Keshab Nath Upadhayay as he leaned heavily on a walking stick.Upadhayay like many others in the impoverished Himalayan nation walked for hours to reach his nearest polling station. In western Baitadi district, a 114-year-old woman made the journey to cast her vote, said local official Deepak Kumar Acharya.Meanwhile, districts in the west have been hit by snow and sub-zero temperatures in recent days adding another obstacle to voters in one of the least developed corners of Nepal.
Voting was temporarily suspended in three polling centers after an explosive device was found at one and acid was sprinkled on ballot boxes at two others, local officials said. There were no reports of injuries.