Sun, Feb 08, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Nepal by-elections set for early April: Election Commission

DPA , KATHMANDU

Nepal’s Election Commission has fixed April 10 as the date for by-elections in constituencies that have fallen vacant, the first elections since the country’s former Maoist rebels formed a government, official media reports said yesterday.

The by-elections will be a gauge of the popularity of Nepal’s Maoists, who emerged as the single largest party in the constituent assembly last year.

The Nepali Election Commission said voting would take place for six constituencies in western and southeastern Nepal after seats were vacated by the incumbents in last year’s assembly election, the government-owned Rising Nepal newspaper reported.

The commission said electronic machines would be used and government-issued identification documents were mandatory for people to cast their ballots.

Identification was not required during the previous election.

Elections are to take place in two constituencies in Morang district in eastern Nepal for seats vacated by ethnic Madhesi leaders and one constituency in Rolpa district in western Nepal, which was vacated by Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachandra, who also won a seat in a Kathmandu constituency.

Rolpa district is considered a Maoist heartland and was the staging point for many Maoist guerrilla operations.

Similarly, Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav gave up his Dhanusha district seat in southeastern Nepal after he was elected president.

With 220 seats in the 601-seat constituent assembly, the Maoist former rebels now lead Nepal’s coalition government.

The party has, however, come under strong criticism for its inability to control spiralling inflation and improve law and order.

The outcome of the election will not change the overall power balance in the assembly, which is tasked with drafting a new constitution for the Himalayan nation.

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