Nepal on Sunday recorded around 61 per cent voter turnout in elections to federal parliament and provincial assemblies.
The Nepal elections were married by sporadic violence and clashes. One person died in these incidents voting was disrupted at several places.
The voting began at 7 am local time at over 22,000 polling centres and closed at 5 pm.
The voter turnout figures are provisional and the percentage is expected to increase as data from across the country is tabulated.
Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya said, "The nationwide voter turnout has stood at around 61 per cent. This is likely to increase slightly as we continue receiving details from districts across the country. This is certainly less than what we had expected."
The voter turnout is significantly lower as compared to the past two elections - 77 per cent in 2013, and 78 per cent in 2017.
Nepal elections 2022 fast facts
More than 17.9 million voters were eligible to cast their votes to elect a 275-member House of Representatives and provincial assemblies.
Out of a total of 275 members of the federal Parliament, 165 were elected through direct voting (first-past-the-post) and the remaining 110 were elected through proportional representation system. Similarly, out of a total of 550 members of the provincial legislatures, 330 were elected directly and 220 were elected through the PR system.
Over 22,000 polling centres were set up for the November 20 elections in which 5,907 candidates were in the fray.
The Election Commission of Nepal mobilised 2,76,000 staff for conducting the election in all 77 districts. Some 300,000 security personnel were deployed to facilitate peaceful polling.
On Friday, Nepal Army chief Gen. Prabhu Ram Sharma held a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya on security matters related to the elections.
Security had been stepped up in all 77 districts across the country with air-patrolling around polling stations and closing of international borders for 72 hours.
Nepal election violence
Thapaliya said the elections were held largely in a peaceful manner except for a "few minor incidents”. He said that voting has been postponed in 15 polling stations in four districts as a result of such incidents.
Thapaliya said the Election Commission has directed the concerned election offices in those districts to make necessary arrangements to hold the elections within two days.
The counting of votes began in Kathmandu Valley on Sunday night and will be completed in a week's time, said Thapaliya.
One person was killed after being shot dead at a polling station in Nateshwari Basic School of Tribeni Municipality in Bajura. The 24-year-old man was shot dead by the police following a dispute between two groups after the voting was over, officials said.
A minor explosion took place near Sharda Secondary School polling station in Dhangadhi Sub-metropolitan City in Kailali district. However, there was no casualty, said officials, adding that voting continued in the polling station despite the incident with just half-an-hour interruption.
Some incidents of heated arguments between party cadres were reported from 11 areas in Dhangadi, Gorkha and Dolakha districts. However, it did not affect the polling, they said.
Top Nepali leaders on voting day
Prime Minister and Nepali Congress (NC) president Sher Bahadur Deuba cast his ballot in his home district Dadeldhura. He voted at the Ashigram Secondary School polling centre at Ruwakhola in Ganyapdhura rural municipality-1 in the morning. Deuba had studied at this school.
Deuba has continuously won the election from Dadeldhura since 1991. He is running for the federal parliament member for the seventh time in this election, The Himalayan Times newspaper reported.
Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) chairman and former prime minister K P Sharma Oli cast his ballot at the polling centre situated in Suryabinayak Municipality in Bhaktapur district near Kathmandu. Talking to reporters after casting his vote, Oli said that his CPN-UML-led alliance will secure a clear majority and form the next government by December 1.
"The UML will form a majority government, or at least a coalition government comprising parties that have forged an alliance with us in the elections," he said.
CPN-Maoist Centre chairman and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” cast his vote at the polling centre located at Bharatpur Municipality in Chitawan district.
"It is most likely that the next government will be formed under the leadership of the Nepali Congress and I will contest for the post of Parliamentary Party leader to forward my claim for the top executive position," NC general secretary Gagan Thapa said after casting his vote in Kathmandu constituency No. 4.
Another NC leader and former deputy prime minister Prakash Man Singh said the leaders of the five-party alliance will sit together to decide who will lead the next government and chalk out the future course of action.
Nepal polls unlikely to end instability
It is expected theat PM Deuba-led coalition will win the Nepal election but that would not assure political stability.
Political instability has been a recurrent feature of Nepal's Parliament since the end of the decade-long Maoist insurgency, and no prime minister has served a full term after the civil war ended in 2006.
The frequent changes and fighting among parties have been blamed for the country's slow economic growth.
There are two major political alliances fighting it out for the November 20 general elections — the Nepali Congress (NC)-led democratic and leftist alliance and the CPN-UML-led leftist and pro-Hindu-pro-monarchy alliance.
The NC-led ruling alliance includes CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN-Unified Socialist, and Madhes-based Loktantrik Samajwadi Party, and the CPN-UML-led alliance includes pro-Hindu Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Madhes-based Janata Samajwadi Party.
The NC and the CPN-Maoist Centre of Prachanda were bitter rivals during the civil war as Prachanda was the leader of Communists. The Indian Express reports that a large number of 17,000 people killed during the civil war were NC cadres and current NC PM Deuba also survived a Communist ambush earlier. But now he is allied with his formal enemies. On the other hand, the Left is allied with monarchist parties which goes against conventional wisdom.
The next government will face challenges of keeping a stable political administration, reviving the tourism industry and balancing ties with neighbours -- China and India.
Out of a total of 2,412 candidates contesting the election for federal Parliament, 867 are independents.
Among the major political parties, the CPN-UML has fielded 141 candidates while the Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Centre have fielded 91 and 46 candidates respectively.
(With PTI inputs)