Kathmandu: Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese exercised their democratic rights on Sunday as Nepal held local-level polls, the first since 1997 and a key step in its rocky road to democracy more than a decade after a civil war ended.
People in the tiny hill country were upbeat and in festive mood as they set out in a large number to seal the fate of their choice of candidates in ballot boxes. With nearly 70 percent of the population aged under 35, many were voting for their local representatives for the first time.
The election in Kathmandu - the country's capital and one of the largest constituencies, saw some interesting scene as 878 candidates were in the fray. The election commission of Nepal had to make arrangement for a ballot paper which was one metre - about three feet, long to accomodate the names of all the contesting candidates.
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. according to AFP.
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 participate until an amendment to the constitution is passed.
Polling stations for the first phase closed at 1700 local time (1115 GMT) on Sunday, with voter turnout estimated at 71 percent, Election Commission head Ayodhi Prasad Yadav said at a press conference.
Ballot boxes were being transported to polling centres in the capital Kathmandu and in several districts in the country's three provinces.
Yadav said helicopters had been used to carry ballot boxes from the country's remote northern regions to the nearest towns.
"The counting will start tonight or tomorrow. The polling officers in each district will decide on when to start counting," he said.
Yadav did not announce when the final results would be available.