Nepal parties look for women representatives (Lead)

April 25th, 2008 - 7:37 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 25 (IANS) Though Nepal Friday reached yet another milestone in its historic election that put King Gyanendra to vote with the royal foes, former Maoist guerrillas, emerging as the largest party and frontrunners for leading the new government, the Election Commission added a new twist, asking the parties to look for women representatives. Fifteen days after a critical constituent assembly election saw the Maoists surge past the ruling parties, the Election Commission (EC) Friday announced the final tally, saying the former insurgents had won 220 seats in the race for 575 seats.

Though the Maoists upset all poll calculations by winning half of the 240 seats in the direct fray, the complicated election system, which was of their own making, saw them fall far short of majority at the end of the day.

In the second phase of the election that chose 335 representatives on the basis of proportional representation, the armed party could muster only 100 seats.

It was a turbulent time for Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress that from being the largest party in parliament and supported by the international community, became a poor second with only 37 seats in the first phase.

But the PR system helped it bounce back with 73 more seats, reaching a more respectable total of 110.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), that too received a drubbing with only 33 seats earlier, has now acquired 70 more seats, going up to 103.

Two debutant ethnic parties that rose from the Terai plains now rank after the big three, outpacing other older parties.

The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum that demolished the prime minister’s party in the plains and challenged Maoist domination has become the fourth largest party with 52 seats, while the Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party formed by former Nepali Congress ministers and lawmakers now has 20 seats.

The proportional representation system gave 20 other parties a new lease of life. Though most of them did not win any seats in the direct contests, now they have seats in the new assembly, including the royalists who have four seats.

However, the electoral process is yet to be over. An additional 26 representatives have to be nominated by the prime minister but with Koirala’s party experiencing a poll debacle, it is now unclear if the premier will have a free hand with the nominations or will be expected to follow the recommendations of the Maoists.

The EC said it has sent letters to all the 54 parties that took part in the election under the PR system, asking them to send the names of their candidates within a week.

Though most parties submitted the names of their candidates for the PR system, the lists will now have to be modified to ensure women and disadvantaged communities have the minimum required representation.

Now each party will have to ensure that in the seats it has won under the PR system, 50 percent goes to women. There are also minimum reservations for disadvatanged groups like the Dalits, who were formerly considered untouchables, Madhesis or people from the Terai plains, indigenous communities and backward communities.

The EC said a party that failed to ensure the minimum reservations, would not get the additional seats under the PR system.

So far, the Maoists have been the only party to nominate women and candidates from disadvantaged communities the most.

Of the 29 women elected in the 240 directly contested seats, 23 are Maoists.

EC spokesman said the entire process would take 10 to 12 more days.

After that, the newly elected assembly would have to hold its first meeting in 21 days and formally announce the exit of King Gyanendra, who would become a law-abiding commoner living in his own residence instead of the Narayanhity Palace.

It is a rocky way ahead for the Maoists, who despite their victory, now face the difficult task of ensuring a peaceful ouster of the royal family from the palace as well as cobbling a government for which they would need to woo back their former partners.

Both the vanquished parties have begun consultations with their top leaders to decide if they should join a Maoist-led government and are likely to try strike a hard deal.

With the parties having a past record of forgetting national issues in their joust for power, it remains to be seen if Nepal will be able to write a new, pro-people constitution in two years, as the parties had promised at the time of bringing King Gyanendra’s government down in 2006.

Posted in South Asia |