KATHMANDU (AFP) - An alliance of Nepal's former Maoist rebels and the main Communist party have won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections and are expected to form the next government, according to preliminary results from the election commission late Sunday (Dec 10).
The Communist CPN-UML and the Maoist Party look set for a landslide victory in the landmark polls that mark the end of the Himalayan nation's drawn-out transition to federal democracy 11 years after the end of a brutal civil war.
The leftist alliance has won 84 seats in the national parliament and leads in a further 31, securing a majority.
The incumbent Nepali Congress has so far won just 13 seats, performing worse than expected.
The lower house of parliament comprises 165 seats that are directly elected and a further 110 that are allocated to parties based on proportional representation votes.
Early tallies show that the Communist alliance will also dominate in most of the seven newly-created provincial assemblies.
"We feel that the people accepted our appeal to vote for the 'Left Alliance' for stability and prosperity," senior CPN-UML leader Pradeep Gyawali told AFP.
"Our alliance is strong... We will prepare to form the government."
The polls for national and provincial parliaments were held in two phases, with the mountainous north voting on Nov 26 and the rest of the country on Thursday.
They are the first elections held under the country's new federal constitution, which was finally adopted in 2015 nine years after the end of the conflict and mandates a sweeping overhaul of the political system devolving power from the centre to the seven provinces.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres described the elections as "a historic moment for Nepal in implementing its federal structure as enshrined in the 2015 Constitution".
Nepal emerged from a bloody civil war in 2006 and ousted the monarchy two years later, beginning its transition to a federal democratic state.
But over the last 11 years a series of short-lived governments have bickered over the country's future, allowing corruption to flourish and growth stagnate.
It has also hampered the recovery from a devastating earthquake that hit in 2015, killing 9,000 and destroying more than half a million homes.
The left alliance - which campaigned on a nationalistic platform that was at times anti-India - was tipped for victory but analysts expressed surprise at the strength of the mandate handed to them by voters.
"They cashed in on agendas of development and nationalism," said Sudheer Sharma, editor of the Kantipur newspaper.
The next government could be the first to serve a full five-year term as rules under the new constitution make it harder to oust a prime minister.
Final results are expected to take another 10 days due to the complicated counting process as well as the remoteness of some voting centres.