Nepal elections: Leftist alliance set for win in Himalayan nation
A leftist alliance between former Maoist rebels and communists is heading for victory in Nepal's first parliamentary election since 1999. The ruling centre-left party has suffered significant losses.
The election is hotly contested between the centrist Nepali Congress party of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who heads an alliance that includes former royals and the Madhesi parties from Nepal’s southern plains bordering India, and the alliance of former Maoists and the moderate Communist Party of Nepal-UML (Unified-Marxist-Leninist).
The voting was held in a historic two-phase election on November 26 and December 7 for both national and state representatives. The polls come two years after the approval of a new constitution which sees Nepal transitioning into a democracy after the abolition of the 239-year-old Hindu monarchy and end of a 10 year civil war.
Political stability has eluded the Himalayan nation for nearly 27 years, in which it has had 25 short-lived governments. The country reverted to a multiparty system in 1990, first introduced in 1959.
More than 15 million Nepalis were eligible to elect representatives to 275 seats in the federal parliament and 550 seats in seven provincial assemblies. There are 165 seats in Parliament to be decided on a first-past-the-post basis, with another 110 seats to be decided by proportional representation.
The voter turnout was 67 percent.
Latest tallies show the left parties (CPN-UML & CPN-Maoist Centre) have won 101 seats and are leading in 16 more, while the ruling Nepali Congress tripped to just 17 seats and is leading in six more.
The final result may not be known until mid-December as counting of votes is still underway in some remote areas, according to officials. The new government is likely to be installed in the first week of January.
Analysts say the new government could mark the return of K P Sharma Oli as prime minister. Oli was at the helm from October 2015 to August 2016, but lost his seat when the Maoists dropped out of a coalition government and he had to quit.
The Nepali Congress, an economically liberal centrist party, is often perceived to be close to India, while the left alliance is seen as closer to China.
China looks likely to score over India in this electoral battle of Nepal, which is tucked between these two countries, and is best known for being home to Mount Everest. The final days of campaigning were marked by violence, reflecting instability within the political left.
The leftist alliance campaigned hard, often hinting at anti-India undertones. It announced it would hand a hydroelectric project worth US$2.5 billion back to China, a project the Nepali Congress had cancelled.