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Former rebels favoured by marginalised communities

Election officials stationed in all 75 districts of the country said that there was less violence than expected.
(Naresh Newar/IRIN)

Radha Biswokarma is ecstatic that the former Maoist rebels won a landslide victory in the historic Constituent Assembly (CA) elections held in Nepal on 10 April.

“Finally, we will have a lot of Dalits in the government,” said Biswokarma, who, according to the Hindu caste system, is of low caste and known as a ‘Dalit’, meaning ‘untouchable’ or ‘outcast’.

The Dalits are among the most neglected, socially discriminated and economically deprived of Nepalese communities and have always been under-represented in Nepalese politics and civil administration, analysts say.

According to a 2001 census by Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Dalits make up about 13 percent of the country’s 29 million inhabitants. However, some local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) say Dalits make up more than 20 percent of the population.

Party for the poor and neglected

The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPNM) was the first political force to advocate for the rights of Dalits, who strongly supported the Maoists’ armed rebellion, dubbed the ‘People’s War’, according to political analysts. The former rebels trained and recruited Dalits in most of the country’s 75 districts to work as their political cadres.


Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
A large number of Nepalese migrant workers in India returned to their villages to vote. Voter turnout was over 60 percent

The recent election results show that Dalits were among the key voters for the Maoists. “I believe in their promises and this is why I voted for them despite being a communist party,” Ram Hari Sunwar, a Dalit villager, said.

The elections for the 601-member CA were contested by 55 parties in 240 constituencies. More than 10.7 million Nepalese voted, according to Nepal’s independent Election Commission.

By way of a mixed parallel voting system - First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) - the Maoists won 220 of the 601 seats, while the Nepali Congress party came second with 110 seats and the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) third with 103 seats.

“Our real representatives were elected”

“For the first time, I will see a leader from my own community,” said Sushila Nepali, a Dalit woman from west Nepal. She explained that the Maoists were the only party to have Dalit representatives elected in the assembly.

Other excluded groups, such as indigenous communities known as ‘Janjati’ and the ethnic Madhesi group, also voted for the Maoists in large numbers.

“My vote didn’t go in vain as more Janjatis were elected and I am so happy that we will see many people from my community representing us,” said Sita Lama, a Janjati Nepali.

Of the 62 Janjatis elected to the CA, 40 belong to the Maoist party.

"The Maoists won because people thought this was the party that would do more than other parties," said local independent analyst Janardhan Acharya, adding that there would also be more female representatives in parliament now. Of the 29 women elected to the CA, 23 were Maoist.

High expectations

According to the Election Commission, the Maoists also managed to get a lot of support from the Madhesi people.

"It's time for a change of leadership and we have a lot of hope in the Maoist leaders to change the lives of millions of poor Nepalese," said Sita Kurmi, a local female Madhesi voter who added that now there was a chance for the Maoists to prove themselves.

But Kurmi also warned that Maoists should not take their current support for granted as high expectations have been placed on them to tackle the economic problems and hardship - including increasing food prices - which many Nepalese face.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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