Nepal election passes peacefully
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After a campaign marred by violence, polls in Nepal closed Thursday in an election that could see the abolition of the 240-year-old monarchy. The UN praised the "overwhelming enthusiasm" of the voters.
A new dawn for Nepal?
A historic poll organised in Nepal may herald a new era for the kingdom. Voters are to elect a special 601-member assembly mandated to write a new constitution, abolish the 240-year-old monarchy and consecutively put an end to decades of unrest.
“The election itself is a great event for this kingdom, which is one of the poorest countries in the world,” the former French military attaché to India and Pakistan Alain Lamballe told FRANCE 24. “There is a strong consensus on the necessity to abolish the unpopular monarchy and find a new governing system.”
The poll - the first in nine years – is the centrepiece of a deal concluded with the Maoist rebellion in 2006 after a decade-long civil war that cost up to 13,000 lives.
The agreement, forced upon King Gyanendra after his attempt to seize absolute power two years ago, has forced the monarch to gradually relinquish his powers and his position as commander in chief of the army. The present king came to the throne after the murder of his elder brother and eight other royals in 2001 by the crown prince, who later committed suicide. Yet, a series of mistakes brought about his gradual demise. He insisted on fighting the Maoist rebels on his own and attempted to seize absolute power, triggering massive protests.
Today’s election is a new phase in the negotiated process that will lead to the end of the monarchy. The special assembly should officially abolish the monarchy and vote for the creation of a federal republic.
“The Maoists decided to put their guns down and embrace the democratic process because they thought they could reach power through the election,” said Alain Lamballe. “However, the campaign was marred by violent incidents and we cannot speculate on how things will turn out after the vote. If the Maoists don’t succeed through democracy then there is a danger of mass demonstrations throughout the country.”
Observers are also uncertain about what to expect of the country’s biggest and oldest traditional party, the Nepali Congress. Some fear it might not accept a poor performance, calling instead on the army in a last attempt to hold on to power.
“The campaign was marred by violence over the past three weeks. People were threatened, beaten up, bombs exploded; eight Maoist officers were killed as well as a communist candidate for the election,” FRANCE 24 correspondent in India Sebastien Daguerressar reported. “The peace process launched only two years ago is extremely fragile and the upcoming two or three weeks leading to the official results are set to be very tense.”
Security forces are on high alert, with up to 135,000 policemen deployed on the field.
The Nepalese are hoping the election will bring about a new era for the country, wherein poverty and ethnic issues are truly addressed.
“Today’s Nepal is a divided country with separatist ambitions in the south,” said Alain Lamballe. “It’s one of the world’s poorest countries although its natural potential is huge. Furthermore, this small country is wedged between two giants, India and China. Its trade depends massively on India, but should the Maoists seize power, they would focus their efforts on strengthening ties with China”.
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