Sat, May 13, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Nepalese head to polls tomorrow

TRANSITION:The nation is holding the first of a two-phase vote tomorrow to elect local leaders in hopes of accelerating development work after the 2015 quake

Reuters, KATHMANDU

Nepali Congress party candidates march during an election campaign event in Kathmandu on Thursday.

Photo: AP

Nepal is to hold local elections tomorrow for the first time in 20 years, a major step in the young republic’s difficult transition to democracy more than a decade after the end of its civil war.

The government hopes the elections, staggered over two phases, will lead to a general election later in the year.

A recent dispute between the poor Himalayan nation’s Maoist-led government and the head of the supreme court had threatened to derail voting.

Nepal has suffered from years of political instability since emerging from a decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006 and the abolition of the monarchy two years later.

The nation’s democratic journey took a hit in 2015, when some regional groups rejected a constitution approved by bigger political parties, saying it concentrated power among the hill elite that has long dominated politics.

Analysts say the absence of local-level elected government bodies has delayed development work, boosted corruption and undermined efforts to rebuild areas devastated by two earthquakes in 2015, which killed nearly 9,000 people and displaced 3 million.

Survivors of the nation’s worst disaster on record still languish in temporary shelters made from tarpaulin sheets and bamboo. The government has been criticized for failing to spend US$4.1 billion pledged for rebuilding.

“Politicians are coming to us asking for votes, but we’ll only vote for those who give us a permanent house,” Bikram Prajapati, 40, said from his zinc-roofed hut in a suburb of the capital, Kathmandu.

The final phase of the local elections is set for June 14, when the restive southern plains, home to ethnic minority groups demanding greater representation, will head to the ballot box.

Fourteen million Nepalese are eligible to vote.

Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda, a former Maoist rebel commander, is expected to stand down after the vote under a power-sharing deal with Nepali Congress party President Sher Bahadur Deuba.

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