KATHMANDU : Nepal’s Maoist party, which swept the country’s first post-war polls in 2008, was routed in a second election earlier this month and the Nepali Congress is emerging as winner, partial results showed Thursday.
The Maoists, who swapped guns for politics after a 10-year “People’s War” against the state, won just 26 seats out of 240 up for grabs in the first round of counting.
The Nepali Congress, one of the oldest parties which led pro-democracy protests in the 1950s, won 105 seats while the Unified Marxist-Leninist party secured 91 seats, according to a final first-round toll. Before the vote, many analysts said voters were disillusioned with the Maoists after years of political drift that also saw their former revolutionary leaders develop a taste for luxury once in power.
A second round of counting, in which another 335 seats will be decided, also places the Nepali Congress as the largest party, according to an incomplete tally published on Thursday.
“It will take a couple more days to calculate the exact seats won by the parties. But Nepali Congress has won the largest,” Bir Bahadur Rai, the election commission’s spokesman, told AFP. Senior Maoist leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, and Hisila Yami, wife of former premier Baburam Bhattarai, both finished a distant third in their Kathmandu constituencies. Reacting to their expected poor showing, the Maoists last week alleged ballot-rigging and threatened to boycott the vote-counting.
But one of their senior leaders told AFP on Tuesday the party was ready to “accept the people’s mandate”, an apparent retreat from its earlier rejection. The Maoists fought for 10 years until a peace agreement in 2006 which ended royal rule and ushered in a secular republic, with Prachanda becoming Nepal’s first post-war prime minister.
Since then a string of coalition governments have squabbled and failed to write a constitution, forcing the collapse of the first constituent assembly in May 2012.