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Nepal presses on with key vote despite bombing

A bomber has struck on election day in Nepal. Voters are choosing a Constitutional Assembly, which will double as the parliament, charged with drawing up a constitution and completing the country's peace process.

Voters in Nepal lined up outside polling stations on Tuesday to elect members of a new Constituent Assembly tasked with drafting the nation's first constitution since the end of a decade-long civil war.

A crude bomb in the capital Kathmandu injured three people about three hours after the polls opened. Police said on Monday that they had recovered five hoax bombs in their election preparations.

The vote is only the second since a 10-year Maoist insurgency ended in 2006 with the ouster of the monarchy, transforming the Himalayan nation into a secular republic.

Candidates from more than 100 political parties, including three major ones - the Unified Marxist-Leninist, the Nepali Congress and the Maoists - are competing in the election for the 601-seat constituent assembly. It will then serve as a parliament, and will select a new government.

Since the election of the Maoist party in 2008, rampant political infighting saw five coalition governments in as many years fail to draft a constitution to complete the peace process. Political parties were unable to agree on the form of government and the number of states to be created in the ethnically diverse country, leading to the collapse of the first Constituent Assembly in 2012.

Violence rocks election run-up

Security was tight as polls opened across the country on Tuesday amid fears an alliance of 33 opposition parties could attempt to disrupt the vote.

At least one person has been killed and two dozen injured in attacks in the run-up to the election, with supporters of the alliance accused of torching vehicles and throwing explosives at traffic. The alliance, led by a breakaway Maoist faction, has called for a boycott of the election, which it says cannot be held under the interim administration headed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Nepalese officials have sought to assure the public, however, that they should have no fears of voting.

"We assure the voters we have done all that is necessary to ensure there will be [a] free and fair election," Nepal's Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Upreti told reporters, adding there was enough security.

Security measures include a ban on all public and most private transportation on election day, meaning many voters will have to walk to cast their ballots.

Vote counting will begin on Wednesday, although official results are unlikely to emerge for at least a week due to logistical complications from counting votes from remote mountainous regions.

Analysts are predicting none of the major political parties will win a majority.

ccp, msh/se (AFP, Reuters, AP)