03/21/2009, 00.00
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Student elections in Nepal, one dead, a hundred injured

by Kalpit Parajuli
The university movement affiliated with the communist party CPN (UML) won the presidency in 92 universities. The movement connected to the Maoist party in power came in third, winning on 48 campuses. The voting was marked by clashes and violence, a mirror of the climate of political tension in the country.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The All Nepal National Free Student Union (ANNFSU), affiliated with the communist party CPN (UML), leads the pack in the student elections for the Free Students’ Union held in the country in recent days. The voting at the Nepalese universities was characterized by mutual accusations of manipulation among the various parties, and episodes of violence that killed at least one and injured more than a hundred.

About 200,000 students from more than 200 universities took part in the voting. The latest results indicate that the ANNFSU has won the presidency in 92 universities; the Nepal Student Union, affiliated with the Nepali Congress, won on 64 campuses. The All Nepal National Independent Student Union, connected to the Maoist party in power in Nepal, took third place, winning the presidency in 48 universities. At the moment, numbers are not available for five campuses, where the vote count has not yet been finalized.

On Thursday, March 19, Manil Tamang, a student activist connected to the Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC), a minority in the country, was killed by a hail of gunfire from police. The incident took place at the university of Dhulabari in eastern Nepal. Local sources say that the police opened fire in order to stop a group of FLSC students who were trying to steal the ballot boxes. After the clashes, many local administrations imposed a curfew for the whole day yesterday.

The tension that characterized the university elections is a mirror of the bitter political battle among the majority parties in the country: after centuries of monarchy, Nepal is now a federal republic, governed by the Maoists who for years led an armed struggle to overthrow the king. The Constituent Assembly has been called to promulgate a Constitution and steer the country to the upcoming elections. The opposition parties are accusing the Maoists of using force, and of creating a climate of terror in order to hold on to power. "The Maoist party became the largest party in the Assembly," accuses Girija Prasad Koirala, former prime minister and president of the Nepali Congress, "because of the extreme use of fear and force among the voters."

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