Maoists sweeping Nepal polls, Prachanda pledges reconciliation

April 12th, 2008 - 8:40 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 12 (IANS) A deep yearning for change, anger at corrupt politicians and the presence of a large number of youngsters and women among the voters began propelling the Communist Party of Nepal, once a terrorist organisation with a bounty on the heads of its leaders, into an astounding victory belying public anticipation. “Baishak ko paila hapta ma, Maobadi satta ma” (Maoists will form the government in the first week of Nepali new year) exulted hundreds of young men and women, some of them with red bandanas tied round their heads and their foreheads smeared with vermilion.

Waving the Maoist flag with the hammer and sickle, they began parading in Kathmandu and outer districts to celebrate the victory of their party in Nepal’s historic constituent assembly election watched keenly by the whole world.

On the second day of counting Saturday, the former guerrillas, who had waged a ruthless 10-year war trying to abolish Nepal’s once-omnipotent line of kings, had captured 23 of the 36 seats whose results were declared so far and were leading in 65 of 120 constituencies where counting was in progress.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC) bagged six seats, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) four and another communist party, Nepal Workers and People’s Party, two.

The new ethnic party rising from the Terai plains, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, won one seat.

Crowds of cadres waiting patiently before the Birendra International Convention Centre in the capital where counting was on to determine the fate of their supremo Prachanda burst out dancing and clapping as the former schoolteacher was declared elected.

Prachanda, who took part in an election for the first time in a political career spanning three decades, won from Kathmandu 10, the prestigious constituency in the capital, and was leading by a huge margin from Rolpa, the remote district in Midwestern Nepal, that served as the cradle of the Maoist movement.

His face half hidden under a mountain of marigold garlands, the Maoist chief’s victory speech pledged reconciliation and sought to allay fears that his party could go berserk after victory.

“I would like to allay the international community’s fear as to what will happen after a Maoist victory,” the rebel chief said.

“We pledge to work with all the parties, besides the ruling ones and the new ones to write a new constitution.

“We will work in cooperation with the other parties and retain the ruling coalition till the constitution is written.”

Prachanda said the thrust would be on economic development and establishing lasting peace in order to achieve that.

“In this 21st century, we need the cooperation of everyone for development,” he said. “We want good relations with our neighbours India and China and other members of the international community.”

However, Prachanda offered no word of hope for the king. “We will work for a federal democratic republic to build a strong foundation for peace,” he said.

The humbled NC and UML were taking stock of their position.

The defeated leaders included Madhav Kumar Nepal, former deputy prime minister and UML chief, who was humbled by a little-known Maoist contender, Jhakku Prasad Subedi, in Kathmandu 2, the seat that had returned Nepal in the last election in 1999.

Embracing the spirit of reconciliation, Nepal issued a public statement, congratulating Subedi and announcing his resignation as general secretary of his party.

The prime minister’s daughter Sujata, cousin Sushil and nephew Shekhar were also struggling in the Terai plains.

Former American president Jimmy Carter, who was monitoring the election as head of a delegation from his Carter Center, put the seal of approval on the former rebels, saying Washington, that had still kept the Maoists on its list of terrorist organisations, should now start to “do business” with them.

“It serves no purpose for the US government to continue to boycott the Maoists after they laid down arms and began to participate (in the peace process) on an equal basis with the other parties,” the Nobel laureate said.

“I hope if the Maoists continue to gain substantial status they (the US administration) will recognise and begin to do business with the Maoists.”

The former US president also defended the Maoists against charges of inciting pre-poll violence. The charges had been made by a delegation of Asian observers.

“Are you familiar with the victims of violence?” Carter retorted. “Fourteen of the 16 killed in pre-poll violence were Maoists.

He also pointed out that of the eight people who had died on a single day, seven were Maoists.

“They were not armed and did not fire,” he said. “They were all victims of assassination.”

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