04/29/2008, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepali parties to choose minority representatives

by Kalpit Parajuli
The country’s electoral law reserves seats for women and ethnic, social and religious minorities. The new administration needs a two thirds majority to govern and minority votes may prove decisive.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The Nepali political parties that won the right to be represented in the new assembly in the 10 April election are preparing the lists for their share of the 335 seats elected under proportional representation (PR) which they have to submit to the National Election Commission (NEC). In the meantime discussions are underway to set up the new government.

Some of the 335 seats are reserved for women and ethnic, social and religious minorities. Women for instance will get at least 125 seats; 76 are to go to the Madhese; 32 to Dalits; 94 to Janajatis, 8 to backward regions and 47 to other minorities, including religious minorities (Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Muslims). If the lists fail to meet the predetermined criteria parties have three days to revise them.

At the same time talks are underway to form the new government. Maoist leader Prachanda is claiming the right to head the new government but under the transitional constitution a two third majority is need in parliament to form a government, and no party comes even close to that. Coalition-building is thus the game of the day and minorities might play a decisive role.

According to the NEC, out of 11,146,540 votes cast under proportional representation, the number of valid votes was 10,739,078. Maoists secured 120 seats in first-past-the-post out of a total of 240 seats as well as 100 seats under the PR system. The Nepali Congress party has won 110 seats (73 under the PR system) and the Communist Party-UML, 103.

Admitted in parliament for the first time minorities have positively reacted to the electoral outcome.

“We are really happy to involve ourselves in writing our constitution for the first time. But political parties should honestly include all minority groups as provided under the law,” said Om Gurung, president of the Nepal Adivashi-Janajati party.

“It is good to be inclusive and we are happy for it. But we are yet to see how much inclusive the entire constitution will be,” Binod Gurung, president of Nepal Catholic Society, told AsiaNews. “The number of candidates doesn’t matter much; what matters is the constitution as a whole, how inclusive it will be."

“For the first time the population is taking part in drafting the constitution,” said Ananda, a Buddhist monk and leader. But he is waiting to see what it will have in store for minorities, “including religious minorities.”

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