Millions in Nepal vote in second phase of local elections

Millions of people in Nepal voted Wednesday in the second phase of elections to choose municipal and village councils despite threats from ethnic groups that oppose the polls.

More than 162,000 security personnel patrolled the election areas.

Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav said there were only minor incidents during the voting, and counting would begin by night in most places.

Yadav estimated the voter turnout at about 70.5 percent.

Local elections are being held for the first time in two decades in the Himalayan nation, which was wracked by a long-running communist insurgency followed by a yearslong delay in passing a new constitution. Crucial local posts have been occupied by government-appointed bureaucrats.

Voting took place Wednesday in three of Nepal's seven provinces. Three other provinces held elections last month, and another will vote in September.

There were reports of scuffles between rival groups but no major problems.

Two people died in election-related violence in the first phase of the elections on May 14.

Ethnic groups in southern Nepal had called for a boycott of the polls, saying their demand for more territory in their province needed to be addressed first.

Members of the largest of the groups, the Madhesi, say their population requires far more territory than the province they were granted by the new constitution. The constitution, adopted two years ago, sparked months of protests by the ethnic groups, leaving 52 people dead.

The government has been trying to convince the Madhesis to join the elections, postponing voting in their province to Sept. 18 in hopes of reaching an agreement.

More than 62,000 candidates contested 15,038 positions on Wednesday.