Nepalese Vote for First Time in Nine Years
By Joseph Catapano
April 10, 2008 | Printer Friendly
April 10 marked the first time elections were held in the Himalayan country of Nepal since 1999. The elections follow a cease fire in 2006 between the interim government and Maoist guerillas, which are aligned with the Communist Party of Nepal.
Voter turnout has been exceptional, with over 50% of the approximately 17.6 million registered voters counted by 2 p.m. local time according to The New York Times. Although the majority of the nearly 10,000 polling centers experienced quiet proceedings, there was some violence, mainly in the country’s southeastern regions where ethnic tensions have been very high over the past year. Six polling centers were forced to close in the early afternoon; ballot box seizures, destruction of property, arson, and the murder of an independent candidate were all reported.
“This election is part of the peace-building process. This is not a normal election,” said Election Commissioner Bhojraj Pokharel.
The Nepalese will choose a candidate to represent their district and then separately choose a party. After the vote, the Constituent Assembly, part of the interim government, will decide what kind of government will run the country, whether to abolish the monarchy, and how different ethnic groups and castes will be represented.
Former American President Jimmy Carter called the elections in Nepal the most “transformational” of the 70 elections he has witnessed around the world; the Carter Center is one of a number of international observer teams present across Nepal.
Elections have been delayed twice due to uprisings in the southeastern portion of the country. United Nations monitors state that “violence and intimidation by party workers has continued,” and they have accused the Maoists of being responsible for the majority of attacks.
“We are fighting against feudalism, we are not fighting against capitalism,” said former Maoist insurgent leader Prachanda. “In the phase of our socioeconomic development, it is not possible to have a socialist revolution. We are saying that this is a bourgeois democratic revolution.”
Officials say that polling has been postponed in ten constituencies; results are expected within the next ten days.
The New York Times: Nepalese Voters Flock to the Polls
BBC News: Nepal Votes in Historic Election
The New York Times: Election, and Maoists, Could Transform Nepal