KATHMANDU, Nepal – Millions of people voted in southern Nepal on Thursday in the final phase of mostly peaceful elections for members of national and provincial assemblies.
It is the first election of members in the seven provincial assemblies established under the constitution that was adopted in 2015 after having been initially rejected by ethnic groups in southern Nepal. The members of the assembly will name the seven states formed under the constitution and draft provincial laws.
Thursday's vote involves some 12 million people in the southern half of the Himalayan nation, nearly 80 percent of the population. The mountainous region of the north voted on November 26. The counting of all votes is expected to start on Friday and take several days, since some of the ballot boxes must be transported from remote villages to counting centers.
their hands lined up before the polling stations opened at 7 a.m. in the capital, Kathmandu.
"I am here to vote today because it is the first election for the provinces with the hope that these provincial governments can take the development to concentrated and concentrated areas," said Kedar Sharan Raya, 74-year-old retired defender.  "I will vote after many years because there are new hopes in the country with the establishment of provinces," said Iswor Prasad Shrestha, a 70-year-old entrepreneur.
The police said that voting was peaceful. Police, army soldiers and temporary police officers monitor the polling stations. Vehicles were banned on the streets and voters walked to the polling stations in their neighborhoods.
Nepal's slow road to democracy began in 2006, when protesters forced the king to renounce his government. Two years later, Nepal officially abolished the centennial monarchy and decided that a federal system would better serve all corners of one of the poorest nations in the world.
But the disputes between the political parties delayed until 2015 the implementation of the new constitution, which declared Nepal a republic.
Security for elections was intensified, with thousands of police and army soldiers deployed. According to the Ministry of the Interior, more than 400 people were arrested in the days leading up to the vote.
Shortly after the implementation of the constitution in 2015, protests by ethnic groups in southern Nepal turned violent and left some 50 people dead.  The Madhesi ethnic group protested for months, saying they did not have enough territory in the province assigned to them. They said they deserved more land because they represented a larger population. His protest blocked the border with India for months, cutting off fuel and other supplies in Nepal.
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