First local elections are being held in Nepal in the past two decades, which is a landmark moment in the country’s fraught transition to democracy.
The ballot paper in the capital Kathmandu — one of the largest constituencies — was around one metre long (3 feet) to accommodate the 878 candidates. The vote has been split into two phases because of unrest in the southern plains bordering India, where the minority Madhesi ethnic group is refusing to participate until an amendment to the constitution is passed.
The remaining four provinces, considered potential flashpoints for election-related violence, will vote in the second phase due to be held on June 14.
Around 231,000 security personnel have been deployed for the two phases of the election, including 75,000 temporary police officers hired to boost manpower, according to the home ministry.
Local government representatives were last elected in 1997. Their five-year terms expired in 2002, at the height of the country’s civil war, and their mandate was allowed to lapse.
Bureaucrats have since filled those positions, many appointed on the basis of allegiance to the main political parties.Corruption has flourished, hampering the delivery of basic services — from healthcare to the appointment of teachers at government schools.
The peace deal that ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency in 2006 began the impoverished Himalayan nation’s transition from a Hindu monarchy to a secular republic.As part of the accord, a new constitution was written and finally adopted in September 2015, nearly a decade after the end of the conflict.