Friday 19 January 2018

Communists lead in Nepal election

Supporters of the Nepali Congress party outside a vote counting centre in Katmandu (AP)
Supporters of the Nepali Congress party outside a vote counting centre in Katmandu (AP)

Two traditional rival parties are vying for the lead in Nepal's constituent assembly election, partial results have revealed.

They show the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) leading with 41 seats, followed by Nepali Congress with 32.

But a trailing Maoist party, with eight seats, has refused appeals to reverse its decision to boycott the vote count. Party leaders have demanded that the counting be stopped and an independent probe launched because of alleged irregularities.

"We have formally filed our complaint with the Election Commission," United Communist Party of Nepal Maoists spokesman Agni Sapkota said, adding the party would meet this weekend to decide its next move.

The Maoist party says ballot boxes went missing for hours, were switched or disappeared while being transported to counting centres.

Independent election observers, including former US president Jimmy Carter, said the elections were fair, honest and free of any irregularities.

Mr Carter met Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal to urge him to drop the boycott, accept the results and take part in the elected Constituent Assembly.

The government and election chiefs have rejected the party's claims.

Final results from Tuesday's vote to elect 601 assembly members are not expected until late next week, as ballot boxes were still being transported by helicopters and even on foot by porters to polling stations in the mountainous country.

The Maoists are former communist rebels who fought government troops between 1996 and 2006. They gave up their armed revolt, joined a peace process and mainstream politics, and their fighters have joined the national army.

Political leaders in the last assembly elected in 2008 disagreed over who got to lead the nation and on creating a federal system divided by ethnic groups or by geography. The resulting power vacuum has left Nepal without a proper constitution.

AP

Press Association

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