Nepalese queued up Thursday to vote in the first elections in the Himalayan country in nine years to choose an assembly to draw up a new constitution. ( dpa )
"We are finally able to vote after so many years," said Rajendra Shrestha as he waited for his turn at a polling centre in central Kathmandu. "I hope the country can now embark on a path to lasting peace and progress."
The election is a key part of a peace agreement between the government and Maoists that ended the decadelong communist insurgency after the toppling of King Gyanendra's government in April 2006.
In Kathmandu, queues began building up early in the morning ahead of the 7 am (0115 GMT) opening time. Polling stations are to close 10 hours later.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was one of the first to cast his ballot in his hometown of Biratnagar, about 350 kilometres south-east of Kathmandu.
Maoist leader Prachanda cast his ballot from his home district of Chitwan in southern Nepal.
Nepalese are voting to choose 601 members of the constituent assembly who are to draft a new constitution and ratify a decision of the interim parliament to abolish the monarchy.
Under election rules, 240 seats would be chosen through direct election while the remaining seats would be chosen on the basis on proportional representation.
Just more than 17.6 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots in 20,889 polling centres while 110,000 police, including 55,000 recruited just for election security, are providing security.