Nepal will hold the second round of local elections on Wednesday, June 28, amid heightened security across the country. The borders of all 22 districts on the Nepal-India border are now closed (as of June 27) for a period of 48 to 72 hours ahead of the opening of the polls, except for the districts of Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara, and Parsa located in southeastern Province 2. A total of 163,000 security forces, including military personnel, will be deployed during the vote to maintain security. On Sunday, June 25, an unidentified group detonated a home-made bomb targeting a vehicle carrying Maoist activists in Nawalparasi district.
On a related note, tensions remain high in the country, particularly in the Terai region where there have been protests led by the recently-formed Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJPN), a coalition of seven Madhesi parties led by Mahanta Thakur, against the elections. The government has announced that a third round will take place for Province 2 on September 18 to meet some of the RJPN’s demands.
The government has tried (but failed) to amend the constitution and decided to add more local government units to the Terai region, both key demands of the Madhes parties. However, that decision was later blocked by the country's high court. The government has since requested that the court vacate the stay.
Local government elections to elect 744 representatives were scheduled to be held in Nepal in two phases on May 14 and June 14. It is mandatory for Nepal to hold three-tier elections - local, provincial, and central - by January 2018 under the 2015 constitution's provisions. The elections are the first in the country since 1997 and have proven controversial. Election officials decided to hold them in two phases after the disgruntled ethnic Madhes parties recently agreed to participate in the local body elections. The Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) party organized a month-long series of protests in response to the government's original February 21 announcement that elections would be held in May and June. Tensions remain high in the country, particularly in the Terai region where there have been protests, general strikes, and mass meetings.
Individuals present in Nepal ahead of and during the elections are advised to remain vigilant, monitor local media, and avoid all political gatherings as violence may flare up without warning. Follow all instructions as issued by authorities, including travel restrictions.
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