Nepal Begins Voting in Landmark Elections Designed to Achieve National Stability
On Sunday, Nepal held its first general parliamentary election since 1999, marking a definitive step in the nation’s slow transition from a monarchy to a federal republic and an attempt to bring the central government closer to the country’s rural populations.
The election came nine years after Nepal officially abolished its monarchy and drafted a new constitution that declared itself a federal republic. By the second round of elections on December 7th, the Nepalese electorate of approximately 15 million voters will have picked its first legislature of 275 members. Additionally, voters will have picked provincial assemblies, whose elected lawmakers will be able to name their states, choose local leaders, and draft laws.
The main two contending political factions in the race are a left-wing coalition between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), a communist political party, and a centrist Nepali Congress party, considered the nation’s pro-India party, which decided on an electoral alliance with the Madeshi parties concentrated in the country’s southernmost regions.
The Nepali Congress party won the most votes on Sunday’s election, but the second round of votes will determine the final allocation of seats.
According to Ayodhi Prasad Yadav, Nepal’s chief election commissioner, the first round of elections allowed 3.2 million voters who lived in seven newly formed states, particularly in Nepal’s mountainous regions, to vote. Turnout for the election, Yadav stated, reached over 65%.
The election was followed by a series of small explosions, including one that targeted current Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, on Tuesday. Government officials claim that eight people were injured in Nepal’s Dang district as the bomb detonated. The explosions were later attributed to a rogue Maoist group. Occurring just nine days before the second round of elections, the blasts served as a reminder of the kind of instability Nepal has faced since the start of its civil war just over two decades ago.
In the past decade, power in Nepal has shifted tumultuously through the hands of several prime ministers. Political parties constantly contend for control over Nepal, destabilizing the nation in the process. Nepalese citizens hope that the elections will mark the end of this chaotic political atmosphere.
Moreover, Nepal’s elections are extremely important to its two neighboring nations - India and China - as they might finally establish which country gets to have greater influence on it. Both India and China have been keen on participating in Nepal’s infrastructure-based projects, as they share the desire of tapping into Nepal’s hydropower potential.
Regardless of the outcome, the elections in Nepal represent a breakthrough for democracy in the nation. About a decade after the end of its violent and disruptive civil war, Nepal may finally achieve the long-term stability it has long been awaiting.