KATHMANDU: Millions of Nepalese today voted in the second phase of the country's first local-level polls in two decades as the nation took a crucial step towards cementing democracy amid political turmoil.
Authorities recorded a 70.5 per cent voter turnout, slightly lower than the 71 per cent recorded in the first phase on May 14.
The elections were largely held in a peaceful and fair manner in all the polling centres, despite some sporadic incidents at a few places, Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav said. The counting of votes will start as soon as the ballot boxes reach the counting centres, he said.
The highest voter turnout at 80 per cent was recorded at Bajura district while the lowest was reported from Bhojpur with 61 per cent.
The voting began at 7 AM in a total of 8,364 polling centres and concluded at 5 PM.
Voting in two polling centres in Bajhang district were halted due to clashes between the cadres of Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist), according to the EC.
In ward number 9 of Rolpa Municipality, the voting was halted after a voter poured acid into a ballot box. According to police, the acid destroyed 10 ballot papers. Deputy Superintendent of Police Ram Prasad Gharti Magar said they were investigating the case.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba cast his vote at the Asigram Higher Secondary School, the polling station in Ruwakhola in Dadeldhura district of far-east Nepal. He said the local villagers were excited to participate as the second phase of local-level elections were held in peaceful, free and fair manner.
Deuba assured that the Constitution's full-fledged implementation would take its course once the local government was established, and that the development works would move forward efficiently, rapidly and transparently.
In a brief statement, Deuba said the elections were held so that the villages' governments are established by the villagers themselves.
Meanwhile, Nepal media reported that at least four persons died, apparently due to natural causes, while casting their votes. More than 6.4 million people are eligible voters in the 35 districts of Provinces 1, 5 and 7 that have gone to polls in the second phase of polls to elect more than 15,000 local representatives.
Though the local polls were earlier scheduled for two phases, the second phase had to be postponed twice -- and a third phase had to be declared -- in a bid to accommodate the dissenting parties, including the Madhesis, that are yet to commit to the polls to be held in Province 2 on September 18.
In the first round of polls held on May 14 in Provinces 3, 4 and 6, voter turn out was recorded at 71 per cent. All the political parties including the Madhesi parties are taking part in the elections.
The Nepal government had earlier this month postponed the date of elections in the disputed Madhesi-stronghold Province 2 by nearly three months, adding a third phase in the polls that will take place in September. The Rastriya Janta Party Nepal, the key Madhesi party, have fielded their candidates as independents in the election.
Votes were cast secretly under the first-past-the-post electoral system on the basis of one post, one vote pattern.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday that the government had made fool-proof security arrangements to ensure that the second phase of local level elections took place in a free, fair and peaceful environment.