Monday, April 14, 2008

Nepal's Maoist suprise

Western nations were shocked today to learn that former Maoist rebels seemed headed for a landslide win in Nepal's special election last week. The Maoists, still considered a terrorist group by the United States for leading a deadly 40-year insurgency that ended in 2006, have won 83 of the first 160 seats counted in a special assembly to rewrite the constitution and abolish the 239-year-old Hindu monarchy. The constitutional assembly was dissolved in 2005, when King Gyanendra assumed absolute power, but a provisional assembly created last year stripped the king of most of his powers. The special assembly is expected to serve for two years. Most Nepal analysts had expected the Maoists to finish third, behind the Communist party (Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Nepali Congress party, according to the Reuters international news service. The Madheshi People's Rights Forum was fourth. The Maoists were permitted to rejoin politics in the deal to end the insurgency, which killed more than 13,000. They campaigned on a platform of radical land reform in favor of small farmers, abolishing the monarchy and encouraging foreign investment. "It is amazing. It is a huge defeat, especially for the Nepali Congress and the UML," said Rhoderick Chalmers, who heads the Nepal branch of International Crisis Group, a Brussels think-tank. "I think it is a vote for change, a change in the way of doing politics and a change in the way state functions."

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