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Nepal holds local poll after 20 years

KATHMANDU

Nepal held local-level polls on Sunday, the first since 1997 and a key step in its rocky road to democracy more than a decade after a civil war ended.

Around a third of registered voters across three provinces were eligible to vote, with the rest of the country due to do so in a month’s time.  The Election Commission estimated  turnout of at least 71 per cent as preliminary data trickled in Sunday evening.

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 take part until an amendment to the constitution is passed.

The long gap between polls has left an institutional void at the local level and graft has become a way of life in Nepal, hampering the delivery of basic services as well as the recovery from a devastating 2015 earthquake.

Nearly 50,000 candidates were standing for election across 283 local municipalities in the first phase. Many registered as independents or with a number of small reformist parties hoping to grab some votes from the traditional political heavyweights.

Reuters