Polls opened in Nepal on Monday (Sept 18) for the final phase of local polls, the first in nearly two decades and a key step in the country’s post-war transition to a federal democracy. Most of the country has already voted in the landmark polls, but the vote was repeatedly delayed in one province of Nepal’s southern plains, which was the epicentre of deadly ethnic protests two years ago. Protests kicked off after a new Constitution was passed in 2015 – nearly a decade after the end of the brutal Maoist insurgency – with ethnic minority groups saying the charter left them politically marginalised.
Simmering tensions have remained and a political party representing the Madhesi ethnic minority, who live in the lowlands that border India, had refused to take part in polls unless an amendment to the Constitution was passed.
They later softened their stance and Monday’s vote is being held with their participation and without any changes to the charter.
“The big parties have always pushed our agendas away and now the Madhesi party has also betrayed us by going to elections without amending the Constitution,” said a resident of the southern city of Janakpur, Mr Saroj Mishra.