Millions of voters in Nepal are heading to the polls in a historic election that completes the troubled country’s transition to full democracy.
Thursday’s vote is the second and final phase of elections that will formally establish seven provincial assemblies, as well as elect members to the 275-member parliament. About 12 million voters in southern Nepal will cast their ballots in Thursday’s second round, with the North having voted on Nov. 26. The newly elected assemblies will name their provinces and draft provincial laws.
Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed at voting centers to prevent a repeat of violence ahead of the first round, which left one person dead and dozens wounded.
Political analysts say the alliance between the main group of Maoist former rebels and the opposition Communist UML party is widely expected to emerge as the winner.
Nepal has been on a long road to democracy since protesters forced the king to give up the monarchy in 2006, which also marked the end of a decade-long civil war. The centuries-old monarchy was formally abolished two years later.
The impoverished Himalayan nation’s constitution, which established a federal system of government, was not adopted until 2015, held up by bickering among political parties and deadly ethnic clashes. Nepal is also struggling to recover from a massive earthquake that same year that killed 9,000 people.