|Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has his privacy invaded by media as he votes in Bharatpur. This is the first time he has voted since the 1980 referendum on the monarchy.|
The Nepali people have once more proved doomsdayers wrong. By turning out in overwhelming numbers to vote, Thursday's election became a referendum for peace, justice and development.
Even in the hotspots where much violence was predicted, voting was peaceful and orderly. The turnout exceeded even the Election Comission's most optimistic scenario. By Thursday afternoon as this paper went to press, over 75 percent of the electorate had cast their ballots in Morang and Sunsari. In Chitwan, the figure was 75 percent. Turnout in the far-west till about 3PM was 60 percent.
It was Kathmandu Valley where the turnout was lower, with only 55 percent till 3PM. By that time in rural Sindhuli, Parsa and Rautahat, 70 percent of the people had voted.
There were electoral hotspots where trouble was expected, and here polls have been postponed. But out of the 20,810 polling centres, polls had been postponed in 21. None of these were in any of the far-western districts, even though turnout there was lower.
|SOLDIER-STATESMAN: Prime Minister Koirala casts his ballot in his hometown of Biratnagar on Thursday morning. The ageing Koirala has been worried about his legacy and had told his physicians: "Keep me alive till elections."|
In the western hills, polling continued even in places where it had been temporarily suspended after clashes between rival parties. However, the UML reported the Maoists were preventing their supporters from voting in some places in the afternoon.
Among the trouble spots was the Maoist 'base area' of Rolpa where all booths in constituency 1 were captured by Maoists. Booths were also captured in Thawang and Rangsi. Nineteen booths were captured by Maoists in rukum. The NC and UML have asked for repolling in these centres.
In Nar and Phu in Manang it was the voters who boycotted elections because no candidate had come to canvass. In the eastern Tarai districts of Saptari, Siraha and Sarlahi, polling was suspended in only two centres.
In Ramechhap Maoists blocked roads leading to polling centres in Doramaba and in Chitwan, YCL cadre threw ballot boxes into the Rapti River. NC and UML cadres have also engaged in violence in parts of Dolakha, while it has been the Jana Morcha that has been beating up UML and NC candidates in Baglung.
Reported by Dewan Rai
From early morning long lines of people streamed towards voting centres all over the country. Some even arrived at 6AM to beat the crowds and the heat.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm for these polls," said polling officer Suresh Ghimire in Lalitpur\'s Jawalakhel.
More than 17.6 million Nepalis were eligible to vote and the guess is that there was a 70 percent turnout--the highest in any election in Nepal.
Voting was suspended in only ten of the 20,888 polling centres in an election which for the first time was carried out in a mixed system. There was a direct ballot for candidates and a proportional representation ballot for parties.
There were 9,600 candidates vying for 575 seats in the 601-member assembly. Some 234,000 polling staff and 135,000 police were deployed. More than 60,000 election observers, 1,000 of them from abroad, came to inspect polling.
The election probably marks the end of the road for Nepal\'s monarchy and the final stage of the peace process that has brought the Maoists out of the jungles and into mainstream politics.
The results of the direct elections will be clear in a few days, but the PR ballot will be known only in two weeks.
Local Swoyambhu residents file their votes for the proportional representation and first-past-the-post ballots (pink and blue voting booths respectively). (PIC: MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA)
Mohan Kumar Maharjan stood in line with his voter list number from 5AM at the polling station in Kirtipur to be the first one to vote on election day. (PIC: MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA)
Senior Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa (Badal) votes for the first time in his life in Chitwan. (PIC: EKAL SILWAL)
Election commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokhrel (left) and UNMIN chief Ian Martin (right) observe voting at Darbar High School, Jamal. (PIC: ANUP PRAKASH)
Seventy eight-year-old Shukal Giri from Biratnagar-5 raises his hand in elation after successfully casting his vote at Janapath Higher Secondary School. He had waited for five hours in line. (PIC: SAM KANG LI)