November 20, 2013
Yesterday, voters lined up hours early to elect the 601-member assembly that will act as a parliament and establish a government until a charter is ready. This was in spite of 33-party alliance led by a breakaway Maoist faction, which called for a boycott of the election. At least 30 people were wounded in small bomb blasts in the run-up to the vote.
The total number of voters who registered for this election declined to 12.1 million from 17.6 million in 2008, perhaps due to a mounting disappointment of politicians – regardless of party – and their lackluster performance during the last five years.
A previous attempt at writing a constitution after the 2008 election, which was dominated by Maoists, failed. Political parties were unable to agree on the form of government and the number of states to be carved out of the ethnically diverse country. Nepal had five governments in as many years as politicians formed and broke alliances.
Nevertheless, early calculations are that between 60 and 70 percent of the legal voters made it to the poll booths, regardless of renegade Maoist threats. This could be due, in part to the deployment of large numbers of police and army personnel. The Nepal Army had not taken part in security arrangements during the previous election.
India also contributed in security. It donated 764 vehicles to the Nepal government to ensure a free and fair election. It also sealed the India-Nepal border to thwart threats and violence unleashed by the CPN-Maoist alliance to disrupt the polls.
Preparations were also improved. This was the first time that elections were held with voters’ identity cars. Election materials reached all of the 18,400 polling booths well in advance. The government mobilized 200,000 security personnel, including the 60,000 soldiers.
Still, there is a widespread feeling among the voters that political instability will continue to plague Nepal in the near future.
Voting results may take a long as a week to be fully accounted for, particularly in the isolated mountain regions.