A Left alliance between former Maoist rebels and moderate communists is poised to form the next government in Nepal as it headed for a clear majority after winning 91 of the total 165 seats so far in historic polls that many hope will bring political stability to the Himalayan nation.
According to results released by the Election Commission on Sunday, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist–Leninist (CPN-UML) has won 66 seats while its alliance partner CPN Maoist-Centre bagged 25 seats out of the total 165 seats.
The CPN-UML led by former prime minister K P Oli and the CPN-Maoist led by former premier Prachanda have forged an electoral alliance for both the provincial and parliamentary elections.
The ruling Nepali Congress (NC), which was the largest party in the last assembly, has managed to win only 14 seats.
As the Left alliance headed for a clear majority in the 275-member Parliament, Oli was being projected to succeed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.
Oli won from the Jhapa-5 constituency by more than 28,000 votes as he defeated Nepali Congress candidate Khagendra Adhikari. He polled 57,139 votes, the highest number of votes so far secured by any candidate in the election.
In the assembly, 165 seats are directly elected and 110 are allocated to parties based on proportional representation.
Two Madhesi parties, Federal Socialist Party Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party, have so far secured 11 Parliamentary seats each.
The Rastriya Prajatantra Party, the Naya Shakti Party led by former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai and an independent candidate have secured one seat each.
Sudheer Sharma, editor of the popular Kantipur newspaper, said the reason for the alliance doing so well was because their votes were not divided as was the case in past elections. They also promised a stable government for the next five years.
Nepal has had 10 prime ministers in the past 11 years. The political instability has been blamed for slow progress in Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries. Many voters said they were eager for help in pressing the government to reconstruct hundreds of thousands of homes toppled in a devastating 2015 earthquake that killed 9,000 people. So far, less than 4 per cent have been rebuilt.
The former rebels of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) fought government troops between 1996 and 2006, when they entered a UN-monitored peace deal and joined mainstream politics. They and their coalition partners also promised to work for good relations with both of Nepal's giant neighbours India and China.
Officials said final results could take days. The mostly peaceful elections were held in two phases - the northern half of the country voted on 26 November and the rest on Thursday.
The NC is expected to perform better in the proportionate voting, which was evident from the initial counting trends. The final results would be declared after the counting of votes for the proportionate voting system.
It was the first election for seven provincial assemblies established under the constitution adopted in 2015. Election officials estimated turnout at 67 per cent among the 15 million eligible voters.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the elections marked "a historic moment for Nepal in implementing its federal structure as enshrined in the 2015 Constitution".
Nepal's slow path to democracy began in 2006, when protesters forced the king to give up his rule. Two years later, Nepal officially abolished the centuries-old monarchy and decided that a federal system would best deliver services to all corners of the nation.
But bickering among political parties delayed until 2015 the implementation of the new constitution, which declared Nepal a republic.
Protests by ethnic groups in southern Nepal who complained they did not get enough territory in the province assigned to them had turned violent and left some 50 people dead. Protesters had blocked the border with India for months, cutting off fuel and other supplies.
The two alliance partners are considering a merger to form the largest communist party in Nepal.
If they merge, the post of party president and the country's president will be shared between Maoist chief Prachanda and top UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, according to reports citing insiders.
Nepal has won the parliamentary election from Kathmandu-2 while Prachanda is set to win from Chitawan-3 constituency.