Former rebels have won control in 11 out of 21 constituencies where vote counting has been completed in the election for Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, election officials said on Saturday.
The assembly will write Nepal’s new constitution.
Early results from Thursday’s vote indicated that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) – members of which ended a 10-year insurgency in 2006 – could also be set to win control in 61 other constituencies where counting was still going on, the Election Commission said.
The leader of another communist party, meanwhile, lost to a little-known Maoist candidate in Kathmandu.
Madhav Kumar Nepal, leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), was contesting from Kathmandu’s Number 2 constituency and lost by a small margin.
The party is among the top three in the country and also part of the coalition government.
Of the 19 constituencies counted by Saturday afternoon, the Maoists had 11 seats while the Nepali Congress and the United Marxist-Leninists secured four seats each, the commission said.
Another small communist party, the Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party, won two seats.
Three of the Maoists who won seats were ministers in the coalition government: Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Paspha Bhusal and Dev Gurung. Mahara and Gurung were key negotiators in the peace process that ended the communist uprising and brought the former guerrillas into mainstream politics two years ago.
A complete count of votes in all 240 constituencies was expected to take several weeks.
Members of Nepal’s Maoist movement – still considered a terrorist group by the United States – were already predicting victory in the election for the 601-seat assembly that will be responsible for writing Nepal’s new constitution.
“We will get a clear majority in the final results,” said Hisila Yami, a senior member of the Maoist party and a minister in the coalition government.
“People have chosen us to lead the country,” she said. “This is a reflection of the people’s desire for a republic that our party has always stood for.”
The election has been touted as the cornerstone of the 2006 peace deal struck between the government and the former rebels. The agreement followed months of unrest that forced Nepal’s king to cede absolute power.
Scattered shootings and clashes that killed two people on election day and eight others in the days leading up to the poll did not deter millions of Nepalis from casting ballots in Thursday’s vote in the Himalayan country’s first election in nine years.
None of the 54 parties vying for seats in the assembly was expected to win a landslide, and with 20,000 voting stations spread across the mountainous country – some a seven-day walk from the nearest paved road – officials have said it could be several weeks before a complete tally is ready.
The distribution of seats in the new assembly also adds to the complexity of counting the results. There were direct elections for 240 of the assembly’s seats, and a nationwide proportional representation system with quotas for women and myriad ethnic and caste groups is being used to pick 335 of the seats. The remaining 26 seats are reserved for major politicians who don’t win seats and other notables.
The Election Commission said that there will be re-polling in at least 60 locations because of voting irregularities, and that the number could rise as election complaints are investigated. Several candidates have claimed their supporters were barred from voting by rival groups and have complained of election fraud. (AP)
Former rebels win 11 seats in early Nepal election results