Security stepped up as millions of Nepalese vote in second round voting of historic local elections
Millions of people in Nepal were voting on Wednesday in the second phase of local elections to choose municipal and village councils despite threats from ethnic groups that oppose the polls.
More than 162,000 security forces were patrolling the election areas. There were no immediate reports of election-related violence.
The local elections are being held for the first time in two decades in the Himalayan nation, which was wracked by a long-running communist insurgency followed by a years-long delay in passing a new constitution.
Voting was taking place on Wednesday in three of Nepal’s seven provinces. Three other provinces held elections last month, and another will vote in September.
Ethnic groups in southern Nepal have called for a boycott of the polls, saying their demand for more territory in their province needs to be addressed first.
Members of the largest of the groups, the Madhesi, say their population demands far more territory than the province they were granted by Nepal’s new constitution. The constitution, adopted two years ago, sparked months of protests by the ethnic groups, leaving 52 people dead.
The government has been trying to convince the Madhesis to join the elections, postponing voting in their province to September 18 in hopes of reaching an agreement.
More than 62,000 candidates were contesting 15,038 positions on Wednesday. Crucial local posts have been occupied by government-appointed bureaucrats because elections could not be held amid a 10-year communist insurgency and years of delays in drafting the new constitution.