Millions of Nepalis have defied low expectations and threats of violence to vote in elections seen as crucial in breaking its political deadlock seven years after a civil war ended. A bombing in the capital Kathmandu early on Tuesday injured three children, but the explosion and a campaign of intimidation by a hardline Maoist splinter group did not prevent turnout reaching at least 65 per cent. At this level it would be higher than the 63.29 per cent turnout recorded during the country’s first post-war elections in 2008, when it voted for a constituent assembly tasked with writing a new constitution. Since then, five prime ministers have served brief terms, the country had no leader for long periods, and the 601-member assembly collapsed in May 2012 after failing to complete the peace process. ‘My vote is for the future of youngsters and the new generations,’ 101-year-old voter Lal Bahadur Rai said in a phone interview from a polling station in northeastern Sankhuwasabha district. Hopes of political unity to complete the peace process were dashed when a 33-party alliance, led by the splinter Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), announced that it would boycott polls and intimidate voters.
The Maoist party, led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known better by the nom-de-guerre Prachanda, swept the first constituent assembly polls in 2008, two years after signing a peace deal.
Prachanda voted in the southern district of Chitwan in the morning on Tuesday wearing a shirt and black suit.
Organising the election has been a logistical headache in a country home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains, requiring helicopters, horses and porters to deliver ballot boxes to remote areas.