67 per cent turnout recorded in landmark elections in Nepal

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Kathmandu, Apr 10 (UNI) Nearly 67 per cent of voters exercised their franchise in the historic Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal today amid sporadic incidents of violence which claimed the life of a Nepali Congress cadre.

According to preliminary information of the Election Commission, an estimated 67 per cent people exercised their franchise in today's election.

Voting was postponed in around two dozen polling centres due to the clashes between party cadres.

The elections were held peacefully compared to the previous ones, officials said. This is the first time that the CA polls were held after the Maoists engaged in the peace process couple of years ago.

The election was held for the first time to write a new constitution and decide the future of the 240 year monarchy in Nepal.

Indian Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, who is one of international observers, expressed satisfaction over the peaceful conclusion of the polls in the Himalayan nation.

''The election was held peacefully,'' he told BBC Hindi service.

Arghakhanchi district had over 70 per cent turnout, Rukum 60 per cent, Surkhet 65 per cent, Bardiya 67 per cent, Mugu 60 per cent, Humla 63 per cent, Banke and Surkhet 65 per cent and Salyan 62 per cent, nepalnews.com reported.

The polling passed off peacefully in Terai and eastern districts -- Morang, Sunsari, Bara, Prasa, Rautahat and Jhapa, while balloting was postponed in nearly a dozen stations in Chitwan, Siraha, Saptari and Mahottari districts.

India has welcomed the elections and expressed readiness to stand by its people in the major tasks of ushering in democracy and development.

The External Affairs Ministry, in a statement in New Delhi, said, ''the successful Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal today are a welcome and historic step towards realising the aspirations of the people of Nepal for a democratic future.'' Former US President Jimmy Carter termed the Nepalese Constituent Assembly (CA) election a ground-breaking event, which was being closely watched by the whole world.

''I am also truly amazed by sheer voter turnout at all the polling centres of Kathmandu,'' Nepalnews quoted Mr Carter as saying after visiting some polling centres in the capital.

Various international election observers were monitoring polls across the nation.

Nepal voted to pick a 601-member constituent assembly, in a mixed election system.

First past the post fight will decide 240 seats, while proportional representation will decide 335 seats and 26 members will be nominated.

There are about 17,609,408 voters in Nepal under 240 constituencies.

There were 20,889 polling booths at 9,821 locations, with 9,648 candidates from 54 parties in the election fray.

The main parties contesting the elections were the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

UNI XC SR RN2100

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