Nepal’s former rebels were ahead in early returns from elections to appoint an assembly that will shape the Himalayan nation’s political future.
The Maoist party secured had 61 seats out of 115 in constituencies where counting was complete Sunday and was leading in most other areas where votes were still being tallied, the Election Commission said. The Maoists ended their 10-year communist insurgency in 2006 but the United States still considers them a terrorist organisation.
The traditionally powerful, centrist Nepali Congress was trailing with only 20 seats and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) had only 18 seats, the commission said.
The election was hailed by both national and international observers.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, who led 62 monitors observing the polls, said the election provided new opportunities for previously marginalized minorities to participate in the political process.
“The Madeshis, Dalits, Janjatis and other marginalised groups will now be given a chance to participate along with women,” Carter said in Katmandu on Saturday.
Separately, two people were seriously wounded in a gunfight Sunday between supporters of the rival United Marxist-Leninist and Rastriya Prajatantra Party in a southern village, said Kavilashi Panthi, chief district administrator.
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 the country’s first election in nine years.
Final results for the 601-seat Constituent Assembly, which will govern Nepal and rewrite the country’s constitution, were still a few weeks off, although officials say they should have a clearer picture of what it will look like later this week.
The Maoists’ strong early showing has surprised most observers, who before the vote had them placing third behind the Nepali Congress and United Marxist-Leninists.
The election has been touted as the cornerstone of the 2006 peace deal with the Maoists, in which ended their armed struggle to join the political mainstream. More than 13,000 people died in the insurgency. (AP)
Nepal’s former rebels lead in election results