Nepali Times Asian Paints
Update
Ballots and bullets



Voting in controversial municipal polls got underway across towns in Nepal, even though there are elections in only 36 of the 58 municipalities of 16 districts.

Turnout was patchy, with some booths in Kathmandu Valley showing considerable voters while others were deserted. "Turnout is much lower than in normal elections," said one polling officer in Jawalakhel. This is the first election in Nepal in seven years, but has been affected by threats of Maoist violence as well as a boycott by the main political parties who held 78 percent of the seats in previous mayor and ward posts.

One soldier and four Maoists were killed in the attack that began at 9 PM on Tuesday. Eleven government officials including the assistant regional administrator Prem Sharma are missing, believed abducted by the rebels.

By mid-morning there were reports of Maoist attacks on some polling booths in Biratnagar. The capital and main towns wore a deserted look because of the five-day Maoist shutdown as well as a government ban on vehicles on polling day. Very few domestic flights took off from Kathmandu.

Meanwhile, government buidlings and the electricity substation in Dhankuta are still smouldering in an overnight Maoist attack on the district capital. "Dhankuta is like Tansen," one resident told us overnight before phones were cut off. The municipal building, banks, and the house of the mayoral candiate were blasted and were reduced to cinders. Security forces guarding polling booths are said to have retaliated effectively and driven away the Maoists after a army Mi-17 helicopter dispatched from Kathmandu hovered overhead. A dozen Maoists had been caught the previous day while trying to erect a bamboo bridge across the Tamur, apparently to facilitate the attack.

Captions: Polling officer DL Karna initials ballots at Padma Kanya School in Dilibajar, ward 32 Kathmandu, just after 8AM. About three dozen people had voted there by 10AM.

A polling officer crosses out the ballots for ward chairman and ward members at the polling centre at Padma Kanya School. There were no candidates for those positions in ward 32 so voters cast ballots only for mayor and deputy mayor.

PICS: MARTY LOGAN



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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