Nepal’s former rebel leader yesterday alleged that national elections were rigged after he reportedly lost his seat, sparking fears of renewed political instability in the Himalayan nation struggling to recover from a decade-long civil war.
Former Nepalese prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, demanded a halt to vote counting following Tuesday’s elections, which were held for only the second time since the end of a decade-long civil war in 2006.
Prachanda, the country’s first post-war prime minister, finished a distant third in his Kathmandu constituency, well behind the winning Nepalese Congress candidate, state-run Nepal Television reported.
Early results showed the Maoist party, whose members relinquished arms and embraced politics after the war, trailing badly in the elections, seen as key to completing a peace process that has drifted in recent years because of a political deadlock.
“We urge the election commission to stop the counting,” Prachanda told a press conference. “We accept [the] people’s verdict, but cannot accept conspiracy and poll-rigging.”
The Maoist chief said ballot boxes were tampered with while being transported from polling stations to counting centers.
The former guerrilla war leader headed the first post-war government in 2008, but his stint in power ended after nine months following a clash with the army. More recently, he has faced flak over alleged corruption and his taste for luxury following the war.
Millions of Nepalese voted on Tuesday, with turnout pegged at 70 percent — higher than the first post-war elections in 2008 for a constituent assembly that is charged with writing a constitution.
The Maoists swept the vote five years ago, promising social change, economic growth and lasting peace in a country that saw an estimated 16,000 people killed in the conflict.
However, they have since faced sharp criticism from many core supporters who accuse them of abandoning their revolutionary ideals and adopting a life of luxury while in power.
Political infighting since the 2008 polls has seen a string of coalition governments split and fail to write a draft constitution, forcing the collapse of the assembly in May last year and leaving the country frustrated over a lack of progress.
The Maoists’ decision to disregard Tuesday’s election results casts doubt on the peace process, following recent violence by a splinter faction of the party that called for a boycott of the polls.
Anti-poll protesters torched vehicles, planted crude bombs and hurled explosives at traffic, leading to more than 370 arrests and one death.
Tentative results showed the Maoists leading in just 6 percent of the 159 constituencies where vote counting is well under way.
Even if the party were to sweep the remaining 81 directly elected seats, they would have won less than 40 percent of the vote.
Nepalese Chief Election Commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety told a press conference early yesterday that the counting was being carried out in “a transparent manner” and would continue.
“An election is a way to understand the people’s verdict, I request all political parties to respect [the] people’s opinion,” Uprety said.
Preliminary results are likely to emerge by today, with full results expected by the end of the month, election officials said.