Prachanda surges ahead in Nepal polls
The Maoists in Nepal spearheaded by Prachanda on Saturday surged ahead in the landmark constituent assembly polls, winning 14 seats and leading in 65 of the remaining 240 constituencies.
Prachanda, 53, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist who led a decade-long insurgency in the country to overthrow the monarchy, defeated his closest rival Rajendra Kumar KC of the Nepali Congress in Kathmandu.
The Maoists have won 14 of the 25 seats of which results were declared by this evening. The Nepali Congress, which leads the seven party alliance, bagged five, while CPN-UML bagged three.
The Terai-based Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF), which had fielded 105 candidates, clinched one seat, while the Nepal Workers and Peasant Party, a regional formation, secured two seats in Bhaktapur district, near the capital.
Prachanda, who has been projected by the CPN-Maoist as the future president after the monarchy is abolished, said his party sought "good relations" with India and China.
"For the international community and especially our neighbours India and China, I want to say that our party wants good relations with all of them and is willing to work together on development and peace process," he said.
Confident of a landslide win, he said, "I have taken this victory as the people's mandate to consolidate lasting peace. We will remain honest to that mandate."
The new 601-seat Constituent Assembly will rewrite Nepal's interim constitution and is expected to abolish the 240-year-old monarchy in the Himalayan nation.
The assembly was the main demand of Nepal's seven main political parties, including the Maoists, who teamed up in April 2006 and orchestrated weeks of protests and unrest that resulted in King Gyanendra giving up dictatorial powers he had usurped the year before.
The good showing by the Maoists is being seen as the peace bonus given by the people for coming to the mainstream politics by ending the decade-long armed conflict that claimed at least 14,000 lives.
The Nepal election has been a setback for some of the CPN-UML's senior leaders, including general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, central committee members Pradip Nepal, Raghuji Panta and Siddhi Lal Singh, who have been defeated or trailing behind their rivals.
Top CPN-UML functionaries, Bharat Mohan Adhikari, KP Oli, Bamdev Gautam and Ishwor Pokharel, are trailing in their respective constituencies. Nepali Congress heavy weights like the party's acting president Sushil Koirala and the Prime minister's daughter, Sujata Koirala, were trailing.
Former US president Jimmy Carter, international election watch groups, India and United Nations have praised Nepal for holding the election peacefully and bringing the Maoists to the multi-party democratic exercises.
Carter on Saturday described the election as one of the "most profoundly important", indicating a major transition for Nepal.
"If the Maoists do gain a substantial share of power I hope the United States will recognize and do business with the government," Carter told mediapersons today. The Maoists are still named as a terrorist organisation by the United States.
He said all political parties including the Maoists have committed themselves to democracy and peace and to resolve differences through a peaceful process. He said that the Maoists have changed their behaviour by resorting to peaceful democratic process.
Carter said with completion of the election the king will have no substantial political role but will remain as a citizen and enjoy the normal rights.