Kathmandu: Sporadic violence and lower-than-expected turnout on Sunday marred Nepal’s parliamentary elections, which many hoped would bring political stability in the Himalayan nation that has changed 13 governments in the last 16 years. One person was killed, two were wounded and voting stopped in at least 15 places, said Nepal’s Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya. He said that elections would be repeated in those locations in the next two days while counting of votes in most places, including capital Kathmandu, will start Sunday night.
Army helicopters will fly ballot boxes from remote mountain villages to district capitals on Monday, he said. Turnout was estimated at 61%, which he said was lower than anticipated. It was significantly lower as compared to the past two elections - 77% in 2013, and 78% in 2017. More than 17. 9 million voters were eligible to cast their votes.
The main contestants were the ruling alliance of PM Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress party and the Maoist communist party, which were running against the Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist), headed by former PM Khadga Prasad Oli.
Security was stepped up across the country as a separate communist group, known for violence in the past, called for boycotting the polls and threatened to disrupt the election. Sunday was declared a national holiday and vehicles were barred from the streets. “The new government should be focused on development, it should be able to work, determined to develop the country, and be in touch with the people,” said Ravi Shrestha, a retired government worker who was among the first ones to vote in Kathmandu. “We need young leaders,” Shrestha said.
Political observers closely watching the elections have predicted a hung parliament and a government that is unlikely to provide the required political stability in Nepal. Political instability has been a recurrent feature of Nepal’s parliament since the end of the decade-long Maoist insurgency, and no prime minister has served a full term after the civil war ended in 2006.
Election results are likely to take days, if not weeks. Once all votes are counted, the 275 elected members of parliament will chose a prime minister who will have to get the support of half the chamber.