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Nepal Maoist party leader alleges fraud in elections

  |   Nov. 22, 2013 at 12:29 AM
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Nepal's main Maoist party, facing a rout in elections held earlier this week, alleged there was voter fraud and demanded an immediate halt to ballot counting.

Apparently stunned by results declared thus far, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, whose Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist won the most seats in polls in 2008, said the Tuesday vote counting was marred by rigging and told reporters, "We urge the election commission to stop the counting."

Polling was conducted to elect a second Constituent Assembly to draft a new Constitution for the poor Himalayan state, which has a population of about 27 million and has faced years of political turmoil and squabbling among the dozens political parties. There have been as many as five prime ministers in the past six years.

The latest election to the second Constituent Assembly came about 18 months after the dissolution of the first one.

The UCPN-M, led by Dahal, also known as Prachanda, was running a distant third with votes counted as of Thursday behind the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML parties.

Dahal, vowing his party will not join the new assembly, insisted there be an investigation of his allegations that election workers had accept fraudulent ballots.

The Maoist threat could pose a problem for Nepal, a nascent democracy that had earlier been plunged into a Maoist-led, decade-long bloody civil war that ended in 2006 after leaving tens of thousands of people dead,The New York Times reported.

Sushil Koirala, president of the Nepali Congress, said Dahal's statement against people's voting rights, and to boycott the vote count, was undemocratic and urged on the need for "accepting the victory or defeat with patience," Nepal's Rashtriya Samachar Samiti news agency reported.

"Such attitude of a political leader like Prachanda would make himself weaker and make his party unpopular," Koirala said.

The Press Trust of India news agency said of the 34 constituency results declared, CPN-UML had won 18, followed by Nepali Congress' 15 and the Maoists' just 1. The report said trends from 160 other constituencies indicated Nepali Congress was leading in 74, CPN-UML in 51 and Maoists in 19.

Nepal had been a Hindu kingdom for more than 200 years before 2006. After the rebellion, which ended the monarchy, the Maoists agreed to a peace process. In the elections in 2008, the Maoists won the largest number of seats in the assembly but didn't have a majority, leading to an impasse among the political parties and leaving the country without a draft constitution for electing a Parliament.

The current election is for a 601-member Constituent Assembly, which will include 240 members elected under a direct voting system and proportionate voting of another 335 seats. The remaining 26 members will be nominated by the government.

More than 12 million people were eligible to vote and election officials have said the voter turnout was over 60 percent. A total of 6,218 candidates contested in the first-past-the-post election and another 10,409 candidates in the proportional representation category

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who was monitoring the election, had called the polling "fair" and congratulated the government, the elections commission, the voters and the parties for the large turnout, PTI reported.

"I am very disappointed to hear of the UCPN-Maoist rejection of the counting process and withdrawal of their party agents," The New York Times quoted him as saying. "I trust that they will respect the will of Nepali voters as expressed on Election Day."

Nepal's RSS news agency quoted an Election Commission spokesman as saying the counting of ballots would continue. He said the commission had not received any letter from the Maoists to put the process on hold.

Chief Election Commissioner Nilkantha Upreti also said vote counting would not be stopped and urged all parties to respect the people's wishes.

The current counting phase is expected to be completed next week and the next phase to count each party's proportional representation would take another two weeks.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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