Nepalis vote enthusiastically in local elections

Nepal registered a turnout of 64% on Friday’s local election against 73.8% in polls five years ago. Ballot boxes have been collected from major polling stations including Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, allowing vote counting to start in many places from Friday night itself.

There were a total of 17,733,723 registered voters and some 300,000 people had travelled to their home districts this week to cast their ballots.

Nepalis all over the country had queued up from early in the morning to choose from 145,010 candidates for more than 35,221 legislative and executive seats in 753 local units across 77 districts. Of these, 355 were elected unopposed.

Ballot boxed being collected from polling stations across the country. Photos: MONIKA DEUPALA

While the election day for the most part unfolded smoothly, there were some clashes with police forced to fire in the air, as well as incidents of ballot box capture. There was also one deadly road accident in which 10 voters were killed. 

By 12PM, the police had to fire several rounds in the air to control threats of violence in 13 polling booths in districts including Ramechhap, Dolakha, Okhaldhunga, Humla, Accham, Bajura, Bara, Sarlahi, Gorkha and Rautahat.

The security forces also used tear gas to disperse demonstrators when clashes broke out between the political party cadres of the governing coalition and the opposition UML.

Vyas Municipality mayoral candidate Deep Raj Joshi was beaten up by Nepali Congress cadres at the voting booth.

In Tanahu’s Vyas Municipality, it was the independent mayoral candidate Deepak Raj Joshi who was beaten up by Nepali Congress cadres. Joshi had gone to visit the polling centre for observation. Joshi, who sustained a head injury is the son of former Nepali Congress leader Govinda Raj Joshi but received support from the opposition UML for his candidacy.

The Madhes Province also saw a turnout of nearly 70% despite some sporadic incidents that led the voting to be stopped in eight centres: four in Bara, three in Rautahat and one in Saptari even as the district recorded one of the highest turnout at 72%.

A voter injured in a road accident in Syangja.

Elsewhere, the election day turned into mourning for a village in Syangja when 10 people from a single Ward perished in a road accident earlier in the day.

A jeep carrying voters headed to Syangja’s Waling Municipality met with an accident when it veered off the road and plunged 500m, killing 10 people on the spot. Twelve more are being treated for injuries in Pokhara. 

Also in Friday’s election, former prime minister and Janata Samjbadi Party’s federal council chair Baburam Bhattarai invited a controversy when he shared on social media a photograph of himself voting in a booth, with the ballot paper exposed (pictured above). 

The Election Commission sought clarification from Bhattarai who has now been fined Rs15,000. He has since deleted his post on social media.

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