Kathmandu: The Nepali Congress led by Sushil Koirala today established an early lead in initial trends in counting of votes to choose a 601-member assembly that will draft a new constitution to end years of political uncertainty in Nepal.
The party was leading in 58 constituencies while its rival CPN-UML was ahead in 38 seats. The Prachanda-led UCPN-M, which had emerged the largest party in the last election in 2008, was in third position with a lead in just 17 seats.
Madhesi Janadhikar Forum was leading in eight constituencies. The counting was disrupted by the UCPN-M in one of the constituencies in Kathmandu. The party claimed that the number of ballot papers counted is higher than those cast.
Former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai of the UCPN-M was well ahead of all his rival in a seat in Gorkha district while party chief Prachanda had taken the lead in Siraha but was lagging behind in Kathmandu.
More than 70 per cent of the 12.147 million eligible voters participated in the second Constituent Assembly elections yesterday. The turnout was an all-time high. In the last election, the turnout was 61.7 per cent.
The counting 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.
The counting began even as ballot boxes from some remote areas were still being ferried to district headquarters. Ballot boxes from mountainous districts like Humla, Kalikot, Mugu, Mustang, Taplejung, Gorkha and Jajarkot were transported by helicopters, the Election Commission said.
"The counting of votes in various constituencies across the country has started," said a statement issued by the Election Commission this morning.
People voted amidst tight security, with 200,000 security personnel, including 60,000 soldiers, deployed across the country yesterday. Voting was held at 18,438 polling centres.
Voting at a polling booth in Depal village of Jumla district was disrupted due to unfavourable environment. The re-polling will be done on November 22, according to the EC.
In the previous Constituent Assembly elections in 2008, UCPN-M had emerged as the largest party with Nepali Congress and CPN-UML in second and third place.