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Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 12:54 UK

Nepal votes in historic election

Policeman at voting booth
The elections are the first in Nepal since 1999

People in Nepal have completed voting in elections that will decide the future direction of the country.

The polls are for an assembly that is expected to re-write Nepal's constitution and abolish its monarchy.

Officials say polling has been mostly peaceful, although three people including an independent candidate were killed in poll-related violence.

Results are expected over the next 10 days. Officials say that polling has been postponed in 10 constituencies.

They say that the postponement was because of voting irregularites.

Concern

Correspondents say that Thursday's voting was in contrast to the run-up to the polls, which was marred by violence. On Tuesday at least eight people were killed in election violence, which prompted international calls for calm.

Women vote in Nepal

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Nepal says that turnout in much of the country seemed high.

The three deaths, all in the south-east of the country where ethnic tensions have been high for more than a year.

EU electoral observers and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have been among those expressing concern.

Thursday's elections are Nepal's first polls since 1999 and follow a 2006 ceasefire agreed between the government and Maoist rebels.

Around 17.6 million people are eligible to vote.

Despite reports of minor incidents, observers say there are indications of a high turnout.

"I came to vote here today believing this process will settle political instability for good," Mukunda Maraseni, a 40-year-old bank employee who was waiting to cast his ballot in the capital, Kathmandu, told the Associated Press news agency.

Some of those killed in the run-up to the polls were Maoist workers shot by the security forces.

NEPAL KEY FACTS
Nepal has a population of 26.4 million
It contains eight of the world's 14 highest mountains
Hindus make up 80% of the population
Nearly one third of Nepalese live on less than $1 a day

But one was an election candidate who died in uncertain circumstances near the south-eastern town of Nepalgunj.

King Gyanendra seized absolute power in 2005 but was forced to give up his authoritarian rule the following year after weeks of pro-democracy protests.

He has since lost all his powers and his command of the army.

It is hoped the election will consolidate the end of the Maoist insurgency, which stopped two years ago, says the BBC's Charles Haviland in Kathmandu.


video and audio news
Nepalis return to their birth districts to vote



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