Former communist rebels in Nepal are moving towards a landslide victory in the Himalayan nation's first election in nine years. The other major parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist UML, have been trailing far behind. The polls were for the 601-seat Constituent Assembly, which will be tasked with rewriting Nepal's constitution.
Maoists Supporters celebrate their victory
Celebrations have continued in the capital Kathmandu as the Maoists consolidated their early lead. Hundreds of jubilant Maoist supporters marched through the capital, chanting slogans and waving hammer and sickle flags. The results released so far indicate that the ex-rebels are heading towards becoming the single largest party. While the Nepal's biggest party, the centrist Nepali Congress and the centre-left Communist Party of Nepal, who were earlier thought to be favourites, are clearly being sidelined.
Binod Bhattarai, an experienced journalist, explains the reason behind the country’s "turning red”: "You get a sense that people wanted change and the Maoists were the party promising change and they were also threatening that if you don’t vote for them, they will go back to the jungles.”
The polls were held for a 601-seat assembly that will rewrite Nepal's constitution. Currently the results are being tallied for the 240 seats which are to be elected through the first-past-the-poll system. While the results for the rest 335, which are to be chosen on the basis of proportional representation, will only be announced in the coming weeks.
But the trends indicate that the Maoists have got wide support across various sections of the society and that they have a good chance of securing absolute majority and heading the government. Experts say if this happens the country will have to prepare itself for major political changes including the abolishment of the monarchy, one of the key demands of the Maoists.
Commitment to peace and development
Speaking at a rally at the weekend, Maoist leader Prachanda, however said his party would honour the people’s mandate and that it is committed to the peace process, multi-party democracy and rapid economic development.
“ We know that the two third majority is necessary for drafting the new constitution and we are committed to working with other political parties... to make the new constitution that will chart a new course for Nepal. We also want to focus our attention on economic development with cooperation from the international community to build this ‘New Nepal’ because we cannot really ignore processes such as globalisation and liberalisation in the 21st century.”
Ties with India and the West
With his remarks Prachanda also signals that he wants to improve relations with countries such as India and the West, which have been critical of the Maoists in Nepal so far. The US considers them a terrorist organization and does not support any cooperation with the former rebels, while India, which is battling its own Maoist insurgency, doesn’t have a good understanding with them either. But as it is certain from the recent electoral gains of the Maoists that they are going to dominate the future government in Nepal, many expect to see India and other nations reassessing their strategies towards the Maoists.