Queues at polling stations as voters take park in historic elections to constituent assembly
More than 17 million Nepalis can vote till 7 pm to choose members for the assembly that will determine the country’s new political system. The centuries-old monarchy is near its end, but real change will take time.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Polling stations will remain open till 7 pm in elections that will Nepal’s new political system. Nepalis are picking the members of the constituent assembly that will draft the country’s constitution and sanction the end of its 240-year-old Hindu monarchy.

For the first time in nine years 17.5 million eligible voters are able to cast their ballots in this historic moment, the last stage in a process began with the peace accord signed with the Maoists in 2006, bringing to an end the ten years of civil war and transforming the hitherto rebels into a political party. At least 135,000 police, many of them armed, guarded polling stations.

The election campaign was however marred by serious incidents. At least 12 people have been killed in politically motivated violence, including 7 militants with the Marxist Communist Party.

Local media said polling was suspended in a few remote polling centres after Maoists tried to snatch ballot papers and intimidate poll officials. But the Election Commission said turnout was high and the vote was mostly going smoothly.

In the population expectations for change are high but analysts note that real change will take time.

The post-poll period will likely be difficult and dangerous," said the International Crisis Group in a report. “The behaviour of powerful losers will shape the immediate aftermath.”

One of the certain losers will be King Gyanendra who, after taking a shot at absolute power, was forced by street protest to give up power.

In a press release, deemed “surprising” by the Interior Minister, the king urged the population to exercise its right vote in a free and fair manner.