Nepal vote count ends, Maoists form largest party
Saturday, 26 April 2008

REUTERS, KATHMANDU - Nepal's Maoist former rebels won 220 seats in the 601-member special assembly, making them the single largest party, the Election Commission said on Friday.

The election crowns a 2006 peace deal ending a 10-year-long Maoist insurgency that killed some 13,000 people in one of the world's poorest countries.

The new assembly will write a new constitution, abolish Nepal's 240-year-old monarchy and make laws. "The Maoists have secured 220 seats and they are the largest party now," said Laxman Bhattarai, the Election Commission spokesman.

The Maoists have abandoned many of their leftist policies, such as nationalisation, to embrace foreign investment and public-private partnerships.

Their victory could lead to a focus on improving living conditions in South Asia's poorest country. The election was conducted under a complex mix of direct and proportional representation systems.

The Maoists took 120 of 240 seats contested in a first-past-the-post constituency system, while winning another 100 of the 335 seats under proportional representation.

Traditionally strong parties the Nepali Congress won 110 seats and Communist Party of Nepal (UML) 103 in the new assembly. A regional party from the country's southern Madhesh plains won 52 seats while the remaining went to smaller parties and individual candidates.

The new cabinet will nominate the remaining 26 members of the special assembly. Baburam Bhattarai, seen as number-two in the Maoist party and a potential prime minister, told Reuters at the weekend that the first act of the new assembly would be to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic.

The Maoists have already begun courting other political parties in an effort to form a coalition government. But analysts say Nepal's history of squabble-laden politics and the reluctance of some top parties to join a Maoist-led government could delay the formation of a new government.

The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are wary they will be marginalised in a Maoist-led government, analysts say. Also, the Nepali media and analysts have said the country's interim constitution does not have clear direction on transition of power, something that could delay the formation of the new government.

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