Nepal votes for a new Constituent Assembly
A total of 12,147,865 eligible voters will go to the polls today in an election to vote in a fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) tasked with the job of creating a new constitution for Nepal.
This will be the second Constituent Assembly; the first was elected in 2008 following a 21st November 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord following a bloody ten year war between the government and Maoist fighters across Nepal.
The 2008 Constituent Assembly was dissolved on 27th May 2012 having failed to gain agreement on a new constitution. Originally a date of 20th November 2012 was put in place for the election of a new Constituent Assembly but this was repeatedly delayed until agreement was finally reached to hold an election on 19th November 2013.
In this new election there are 6,128 candidates standing for 127 political parties. They are competing for 601 seats in the new Constituent Assembly. The voter will vote on two ballot papers. The first is a blue ballot paper from which voters will be able to choose candidates for one of 240 seats to be elected through a ‘first past the post’ system and then a red ballot paper where they will choose 335 members of the Constituent Assembly from closed party lists in a proportional representation ballot. The balance of 26 seats will be nominated by the incoming government.
In the 2008 elections five parties won more than ten seats, they were:
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN-M) – 229 seats
Nepali Congress (NC) – 115 seats
Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN (UML)) – 108 seats
Madhesi People’s Rights Forum, Nepal – 54 seats
Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party – 21 seats
A further 20 parties won less than ten seats. A number of the original parties have undergone splits and fractional divisions in the intervening period. Many voters have expressed discontent with the people elected last time and may well vote for a change, leaving the original parties scrambling to secure support.
In the 2008 election there was widespread intimidation and violence reported and there is every evidence that this may occur again especially in the more remote areas of the country.
The Election Commission of Nepal (ECN) has tried to put in place a secure voting regime. There will be some 54,000 Nepal Police Department, 22,000 Armed Police Force, 44,000 temporary police officers and around 60,000 Nepalese Army personnel on duty to ensure a free and fair election.
Polling stations will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time and results are expected to be finalised within three weeks.