News

    Nepal Election Seen as Referendum for Monarchy, Maoists

    Seventeen-and-a-half million people are eligible to go to the polls in Nepal, Thursday. They will elect members of a constituent assembly that will draft a constitution to complete the transfer from a feudal Himalayan state into a modern democracy. From Kathmandu, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports the twice-delayed election is seen as a referendum on the country's monarchy, as well as on Nepal's Maoists who fought a decade-long civil war to topple the royals.

    More than 50 parties are vying for the favor of Nepal's voters. But it is the two extremes of the Himalayan country's political spectrum on which much of the campaign has focused.

    One of the candidates is Maoist Hisila Yami - serving in the Nepalese government as the cabinet minister in charge of public works.

    "It's a referendum for Maoists, as well referendum for the monarchy," Yami said. "Because it's the Maoists who had given an ultimate challenge to monarchy. And, it is also a test for Maoists."

    On the far right, former Information and Communications Minister Tanka Dhakal rejects the notion that the monarchy, which he supports, is facing a referendum in this election. Dhakal, a proportional representation candidate of the pro-monarchist RPP-Nepal party, says the balloting instead will gauge whether the public trusts the Maoists to participate in a democratic election .

    "We want to establish democracy in Nepal or we want to establish the communist dictatorship in Nepal? This is the major question. I request them to transfer their [communist] ideology to the democratic line," he said.

    The Maoists fought the state for a decade, in a violent confrontation that left 13,000 people dead. Their main goal was to end any vestiges of feudalism. And, that meant ridding the impoverished nation of the Shah Dynasty, which has ruled Nepal for two-and-a-half centuries.

    The current monarch, already stripped of authority and privilege, is the unpopular King Gyanendra. In January, the interim parliament formally declared Nepal a secular republic. The royal moniker has since disappeared - no longer a prefix for the name of the army, the national airline and other state entities.

    Gyanendra came to power seven years ago, when his nephew, who was crown prince, allegedly massacred much of the royal family, including Gyanendra's brother, King Birendra.

    Gyanendra failed to crush the Maoist rebellion and his autocratic ways provoked widespread unrest. He was eventually forced to return authority to the government.

    That led the Maoists to agree to a peace accord in late 2006, in which their fighters and weapons were put in camps under United Nations supervision. Since then, they have emerged as one of the top three political parties. The others are the Congress Party, which once supported the monarchy, and another Communist party (Unified Marxist-Leninist), seen as more moderate than the Maoists.

    Public Works Minister Yami says, however the Maoists fare in the vote tabulation, they have already declared victory.

    "Politically, we have won already," Yami said. "And, even in terms of sentiment, we have won already because these sentiments were evoked during the war. And, now it is the peoples' sentiment. Now, only technically we have to win through the vote."

    Maoist leaders say they will accept the outcome of the nationwide balloting, if the election is deemed to have been conducted fairly.

    Many critics, including international human rights organizations, accuse the Maoists of not playing fairly. They allege the Young Communist League and other groups under the Maoist banner have been instigators of much of the campaign violence. But the Maoists say they have suffered more than any other party, with 60 of their cadres and supporters being killed, some gunned down by police.

    In the Thamel tourist district, hammer-and-sickle flags of the Maoist party flutter above many shops. Here, there is little sympathy for the monarchy.

    Clothing store proprietor Sagar Adhikari says he believes, if the king does not give up his crown, there will be a resurgence of violent clashes in the streets of Kathmandu.

    "Monarchy, I don't like," he said. "If he leaves it's better - better for Nepal, better for Nepali [people] and better for him also."

    One of Adhikari's competitors down the road, Satidevi Khanal, agrees with him that restoring law and order is the utmost priority.

    She says Nepal must be declared a republic and that the king's fate does not really matter. But she adds that her personal opinion is that he should abdicate.

    In every interview, people do agree on one thing - that their biggest hope for the election is whatever the outcome, peace will come to Nepal.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora