By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU May 12 Nepal votes in local elections
on Sunday for the first time in 20 years, a major step in the
young republic's difficult transition to democracy more than a
decade after the end of its civil war.
The government hopes the elections, staggered over two
phases, will lead to a general election later in the year. A
recent dispute between the poor Himalayan nation's Maoist-led
government and the head of the supreme court had threatened to
Nepal has suffered from years of political instability since
emerging from a decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006
and the abolition of the monarchy two years later.
Its democratic journey took a hit in 2015 when some regional
groups rejected a constitution approved by bigger political
parties, saying it concentrated power among the hill elite that
has long dominated politics.
Analysts say the absence of local-level elected government
bodies has delayed development work, boosted corruption and
undermined efforts to rebuild areas devastated by two
earthquakes in 2015, which killed nearly 9,000 people and
displaced three million.
Survivors of the country's worst disaster on record still
languish in temporary shelters made from tarpaulin sheets and
bamboo. The government has been criticized for failing to spend
$4.1 billion pledged for rebuilding.
"Politicians are coming to us asking for votes. But we'll
only vote for those who give us a permanent house," Bikram
Prajapati, 40, said from his zinc-roofed hut in a suburb of the
capital city, Kathmandu.
The final phase of the local polls is set for June 14, when
the restive southern plains, home to ethnic minority groups
demanding greater representation, will head to the ballot box.
Fourteen million Nepalis are eligible to vote.
Prime Minister Prachanda, a former Maoist rebel commander
who still goes by his nom de guerre, is expected to stand down
after the vote under a power-sharing deal with Sher Bahadur
Deuba, chief of the Nepali Congress party.
(Editing by Tommy Wilkes)