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Voter turnout high in Nepal elections despite violence

Millions of Nepalese have taken to the polls in an election to choose who will draft a new constitution for the politically unstable country. Turnout was high despite attacks on polling places.

Bir Bahadur Rai, a spokesman for Nepal's Election Commission, said voter turnout Tuesday was 65 percent. Nepal has 10.2 million registered voters.

“The voting went peacefully, even though there were incidents of violence and clashes in some places, we were able to continue voting after brief periods,” Rai said.

A crude bomb exploded near a polling station in the capital city of Kathmandu on Tuesday, injuring three people. There were also reports of an intimidation campaign by a Maoist splinter group which refused to participate in the elections.

People had to walk to polling stations as the country's interim administration ordered all vehicles off the roads during Election Day, in an attempt to avoid violence. It follows months of attacks in the run-up to the election, in which at least one person was killed and two dozen injured.

Fragmented vote fears

With 122 parties taking part in the election for the 601 seat Constituent Assembly, which is due to draft the nation's first constitution since a decade-long civil war ended in 2006, fears persist that fragmented election results could lead to yet more political instability despite the high voter turnout.

Rampant political infighting and a string of formed and broken alliances led to Nepal having had five governments in as many years. The first Constitutional Assembly collapsed in 2012 because political parties couldn't agree on the form of government and how many states to create in the ethnically diverse country.

The political turmoil follows the damage caused in a 10-year Maoist insurgency, which ended in 2006 following the ousting of the monarchy, turning Nepal into a secular republic.

Vote counting is due to begin on Wednesday but it could take a week for a clear picture of the results to emerge because many of the country's 10,000 polling stations are in remote mountainous areas.

The Himalayan country of 27 million people is dependent on tourism, remittances and aid. Each day, more than 1,500 of Nepal's young people leave the country in search of job opportunities in the Middle East, Malaysia and South Korea.

se/dr (dpa, Reuters, AFP)