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Around 65 per cent votes were cast today as polls opened in Nepal for a historic round of provincial and parliamentary elections that many hope will bring the much-needed political stability to the Himalayan nation.
Of the total 15.4 million voters, 3.19 million were eligible to cast their votes in the first phase of the polls today while the rest will exercise their franchise during the second phase on December 7.
The polling was held more or less in peaceful manner, with exception of sporadic incidents in a few places, and the voters cast their votes enthusiastically, according to officials of the Election Commission.
Around 65 per cent of the 3.19 million voters cast their votes today to elect amid tight security lawmakers in 32 districts, mainly hilly and mountain regions in the northern part of the land-locked country, the officials said.
The turnout was lower than the votes cast during the local-level polls, when more than 70 per cent voters exercised their franchise.
Bajura district situated in far West Nepal witnessed the highest percentage of polling with 80 per cent people casting their votes, the EC officials added.
The voting took place in 37 electoral constituencies of 32 districts. Altogether 702 candidates were in the fray for 37 seats of Parliament and 74 of provincial assemblies. Voting started at 7 AM and continued till 5 PM (local time).
This is for the first time that elections for Parliament and provincial assemblies are being conducted under the new Constitution promulgated in September 2015.
The second phase will see elections in 45 districts including Kathmandu valley and southern plains of Nepal, also known as Terai.
The elections will elect 175 Members of Parliament and 350 members of provincial assemblies in seven provinces for a five-year term.
A large number of security personnel including the army were mobilised to ensure security.
The EC authorities visited several remote areas on helicopters to assess poll preparations.
Chief Election Commissioner Aydohee Prasad Yadav visited Dolpa in the North-East mountain region and Nuwakot in the central Nepal, respectively, to have a direct observation of the poll preparations.
"I am also excited for the polls as most people whom I met today in various parts of the country are really excited. Unlike them I am a bit worried if any force disturbs the elections. Thus, let's first make this election a success and we all will celebrate it together," CEC Yadav had told reporters on the eve of the election.
"The election will complete the implementation of the first Constitution promulgated through the Constituent Assembly and federal democratic republic will be further strengthened ending the protracted political deadlock," he had said.
Two major communist parties -- CPN-UML and former rebel CPN (Maoist) now rebranded as CPN (Maoist Center) -- have forged an electoral alliance against the ruling Nepali Congress.
The two parties have vowed to garner a majority in the elections and forming a communist government.
The Nepali Congress has also forged an electoral alliance with pro-Hindu Rastriya Prajatantra Party in certain electoral constituencies.
There are also some electoral alliances between the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, a key Madhesi party and Nepali Congress in some constituencies to counter the communist alliance.
"It's an important step to implement the Constitution. Let's hope, this election will pave the way for political stability and development in the coming days," said former chief election commissioner Bhojraj Pokharel, who successfully conducted elections in 2008.
The elections are billed as the final step in Nepal's transition to a federal democracy following a decade-long civil war till 2006 that claimed more than 16,000 lives.