The Himalayan nation of Nepal went to polls on Sunday, the first ever since the country’s monarchy was overthrown in 2008 and was established into a federal republic.
Voters from the remote areas of Nepal walked miles of the snow covered route to participate in the historic provincial and parliamentary elections since the civil war came to an end.
A significant turnout of 65 % was recorded in the polls to elect leaders from a 275 member parliament and provincial assemblies, even though it was lower than the turnout of 70 % votes at the local level polls.
Of the 15.4 million voters 3.19 million could cast their votes in the first phase of elections, while the remaining will exercise their franchise on December 7th. The long awaited elections is crucial to determine the dominance between India and China in the Himalayan region.
Nepal has come across 10 different leaders in the past 11 years. Corruption has floundered its economy and the massive earthquake which shattered half million homes in 2015 have taken a toll on its governance.
The voting took place in 32 districts of the 37 electoral constituencies and 702 candidates were in the fray for 37 seats of the parliament and 74 of provincial assemblies.
This is for the first time that the election is being conducted under the new constitution promulgated in the year 2015 after Nepal was declared a republic after a post-monarchy charter.
After the constitution was formed in 2015, India persuaded the Maoist Prachanda to forge an alliance with the Nepali Congress and include the Madhesis from the Terai.
It was successful to withdraw support from the Oli government and form a ‘democratic alliance’ with NC, Madhesis and right wing parties. Meanwhile, the Chinese tried to push a ‘communist alliance’ with Oli UML and Prachand’s Maoist party.
The main stakeholders in this election involve the Nepali Congress led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Left Alliance led by former PM KP Sharma Oli and the Maoists led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal was also known as “Prachanda.”
Among the small parties, the Madhesis are contesting independently from the Terai region with the understanding of joining the NC after the election results are declared.
Nepal’s Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhya Prasad maintained,” We are delighted to let you know that we have achieved historic success in holding the first phase of elections in 32 districts.” The voting in most of the areas was mostly peaceful except that an explosive device was recovered from one place while acid was sprinkled on ballot boxes at two polling stations.
Nepal’s elections appear to be a turning point for India as in the past Nepal’s political parties plotted to divide India and China and there has been a prominent Chinese role in uniting the leftist groups in Nepal. China has also sponsored several infrastructure projects in Nepal. The Chinese plan to unravel a rail route through the Himalayas and West Seti and the Buodhi gandaki hydel projects to strengthen their ties with Nepal.
Election analysts speculate that the latest election may see limited changes as all the three major parties are expected to demand a lion’s share of seats in the national and provincial parliament.