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Nepal seeks unity from first local election in 20 years

Critical ethnic group belatedly joins vote, apparently spurred by India

Voters wait for over an hour in Biratnagar to cast their ballots in Nepal's first local election since 1997. (Photo by Yuji Kuronuma)

BIRATNAGAR, Nepal -- Nearly 100 men and 100 women stood in their lines outside a higher secondary school in this eastern city at 6:50 a.m. Wednesday, just 10 minutes before the start of voting hours in Nepal's first local elections since 1997.

"I had been very much eager to choose local leaders by my vote for the past 20 years," said Ramlakhan Mandal, 75, who cast the first ballot at this polling place after waiting at the gate since 5 a.m.

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