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Nepalese turn out in force to vote

More than 60 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

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Special elections police officers monitor polling stations in Baktapur, near Kathmandu, Nepal.

Ed Wray/AP

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More than 60 percent of 17.6 million eligible voters in Nepal cast their votes Thursday in the first national election to take place in the country in nine years.

Nepal's former Maoist rebels, who people feared would engage in violence during the election, demonstrated a commitment to multiparty politics by participating in the election in a largely peaceful manner.

Unlike past elections that elected a government, the assembly that will be elected by Thursday's vote will end the country's 240-year monarchy, write a new constitution, and cap a two-year peace process with former Maoist rebels, who ended their deadly 10-year insurgency in 2006. The insurgency killed more than 13,000 Nepalese.

Though the voting opened at 7 a.m. local time, people started queuing up outside polling centers from as early as 5 a.m.

"The turnout was very encouraging, voting was brisk, and the day was largely peaceful," said Election Commission official Dilli Ram Banstola.

Polling was canceled in 33 centers due to arson and intimidation, many of the incidents involving the Maoists, Chief Election Commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokharel told a press conference in Kathmandu Thursday evening.

But ordinary Nepalese were prepared for worse, especially after the killing of seven Maoist cadres and an election candidate in western Nepal Tuesday night. And cancellation of the election in 33 centers out of the total 20,800 centers hardly seemed to concern people.

"I had fears there would be a lot of violence during the election," said Nabin Mishra, 35, who, like many Nepalese anticipated worse after seeing the country plunge into violence for 10 years till 2006, and political uncertainty for two more years thereafter. "On the contrary, the election took place so smoothly."

Mr. Pokharel also announced that two people, including an independent candidate in southern Nepal, were killed by unidentified people during Thursday's voting.

Still, he noted, "Overall, the election was peaceful and successful. A clear picture of standings of political parties will be known in 10 days."

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