Sporadic violence, low turnout mar Nepal's elections

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Nepalese people cast their vote during the general election in Lalitpur, Nepal, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. Voters in Nepal lined up Sunday to elect members of Parliament in hopes that a new government would bring political stability and help with the Himalayan nation's development. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

KATHMANDU – Sporadic violence and lower-than-expected turnout on Sunday marred Nepal's parliamentary elections, which many hoped would bring political stability in the Himalayan nation that has changed 13 governments in the last 16 years.

One person was killed, two were wounded and voting stopped in at least 15 places, said Nepal’s Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya. He said that elections would be repeated in those locations in the next two days while counting of votes in most places, including capital Kathmandu, will start Sunday night.

It wasn't immediately clear what triggered the violence.

Army helicopters will fly ballot boxes from remote mountain villages to district capitals on Monday, he said.

Turnout was estimated at 61%, which he said was lower than anticipated.

The main contestants in Sunday's election were the ruling alliance of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's Nepali Congress party and the Maoist communist party, which were running against the Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist), headed by former Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli.

Security was stepped up across the country as a separate communist group, known for violence in the past, called for boycotting the polls and threatened to disrupt the election.

Sunday was declared a national holiday and vehicles were barred from the streets.

“The new government should be focused on development, it should be able to work, determined to develop the country, and be in touch with the people,” said Ravi Shrestha, a retired government worker who was among the first ones to vote in Kathmandu.

“We need young leaders. We have seen the old generation work but now we need to see new people, new faces, new talent to come up, which is the desire of the people,” Shrestha said.

Frequent changes in government and squabbles among parties have been blamed for a slow economy. Many voters say they are tired of the same leaders retaining power and failing to deliver on promises to improve lives while the country makes little progress.

"I am here to make sure that we elect good people who are able to work for the upliftment of the country and who are not corrupt," said businessman Manik Man Tamrakas.

Election results are likely to take days, if not weeks. Once all votes are counted, the 275 elected members of Parliament will chose a prime minister who will have to get the support of half the chamber.

The next government, likely a coalition, will face challenges of keeping a stable administration, reviving the tourism industry and balancing the relationship between two neighboring giants — China and India.