Nepal Constituent Assembly voting ends, 70 percent turnout recorded

Constituent Assembly polls here on Tuesday register turnout of nearly 7o per cent, officials informed.

Zee Media Bureau

Katmandu: Constituent Assembly polls here on Tuesday register turnout of nearly 7o per cent, officials informed.

Till 1:00 pm today around 50 per cent voters had turned up at the polling booths to cast their votes across the country to elect its second Constituent Assembly.

The electorates voted today to choose an Assembly that will draft a new constitution to end years of turmoil and political uncertainty.

According to reports, the balloting was hit by sporadic violence, including vandalism and explosions that injured a dozen.

Three children were injured after a bomb blast was reported here even as millions of people had gathered to cast votes.

The country today witnessed its second voting in a decade after the end of Maoist uprising in 2006 which ended the rule of monarchy.

An unsuccessful attempt to write a Constitution was made after polls in 2008, in which the first Constituent assembly was elected, after the political parties failed to reach a consensus.

Around 12 million people had reportedly registered themselves for voting in the elections.

The Nepal Constituent Assembly reportedly has 601 seats and will also function as Parliament for the coming five years.

Heavy security forces were deployed at the polling booths after calls for election boycott were made and incidents of violence took place in the country in the past few days.

The turnout for the crucial Constituent Assembly polls was higher than that of the last polls in 2008 despite a boycott called by an alliance of fringe parties led by the CPN-Maoist.

"As per preliminary estimates, nearly 70 per cent of the total 12.147 million voters cast their votes," said Election Commissioner Awadhi Prasad Yadav.

This was more than the 61.7 per cent votes cast in the previous Constituent Assembly election five years ago. In the capital, the turnout was 75 per cent, officials said.

People voted amidst tight security, with 200,000 security personnel, including 60,000 soldiers, deployed across the country. The voting began at 7 am in almost all the 18,438 polling centres and concluded at 5 pm.

EC spokesman Bir Bahadur Rai said polls passed off peacefully in most areas barring a few incidents of vandalism, explosions, booth capturing and clashes.

About a dozen people were injured in these incidents, including three children wounded by a blast near a polling booth in Bhotebahal area of Kathmandu.

Unified CPN-Maoist cadres captured polling booths in Gorkha district and polls were disrupted briefly by clashes in Jumla and Dailekh districts, the EC said.

Home Ministry spokesman Shankar Koirala 37 people were arrested for trying to foil the balloting. "The members of the dissenting bloc tried to obstruct the elections at many places but all in vain," he told the media.

The polls will lead to the formation of a 601-member assembly to draft a new Constitution, including 240 elected under a direct voting system. There was proportionate voting for 335 seats and the remaining 26 members will be nominated by the government.

Results under the direct voting system are expected in a week and those under the proportionate voting after a fortnight, officials said earlier.

Election officials sealed ballot boxes and took them to district headquarters for counting of votes. The EC will provide updates of the counting every three hours on its website.

Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety described the participation of voters as "enthusiastic" and congratulated the people for joining the balloting.

A 120-year-old woman, Janaki Devi Panta, cast her ballot at a polling centre in Baitadi district. She was the oldest person to vote in the election.

The Maoists called for a boycott of the Constituent Assembly polls and launched violent protests to disrupt the balloting. The CPN-Maoist, led by Mohan Vaidya, called a nine-day nationwide transport strike that was effective till today.

Despite the call for a boycott, voters lined up at polling centres to exercise their franchise in the historical election.

The border with India was sealed over the weekend in view of threats related to the polls. Movement of people and vehicles across the border was banned and additional security personnel were deployed in sensitive areas.

The vote was only the second one since a civil war launched by Maoist rebels ended in 2006. Nepal was then transformed into a secular republic.

The country plunged into a constitutional crisis after the previous Constituent Assembly was dissolved without promulgating the Constitution last year, and fresh elections scheduled for November 2012 were not held.

With the formation of an election government led by Khil Raj Regmi in March, parties agreed after prolonged talks to conduct the polls in June or by December.

Political infighting, including a split in the ruling Maoist party last year, confounded efforts to implement a peace plan meant to rebuild Nepal after the 10-year civil war.

With PTI inputs