02/09/2006, 00.00
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Few vote, pro-monarchy candidates win amidst violence and protests

by Prakash Dubey
Boycott and protest are the real winners. Maoists call off general strike.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Candidates running for pro-Monarchy parties won in municipal elections that King Gyanendra imposed but that most other parties and Maoist rebels rejected. The real winners were the boycott, violence and dissension.

Early results from 15 cities show that pro-monarchy parties won a majority of seats in 12 with the other 3 going to independents. King Gyanendra now has his people in key positions of power, but  he has failed to legitimise his claim to absolute power.

Voting was marred by armed clashes in which several people were killed or wounded. In the south-western district of Dang, troops opened fire against some 200 peaceful demonstrators, killing one.

According to Election Commission's preliminary figures, voter turnout was 15-16 per cent in Kathmandu, 5 to 20 per cent in other cities, and 40 per cent in areas on the border with India.

"The reason for such a high figure in the [border] area is that most voters are businessmen and traders of Indian origin, and they fully despise the Maoist extremism which has truly harmed them," said a school principal in Birgunj, Nepal's commercial hub.

These voters left mainstream parties they once supported because of the boycott and their common stand with the Maoists. To many of them, the parties' pledge of democracy sounded too hollow.

With polls closed, Maoist insurgents called off the general strike they had started on February 5 that left two million students out of school. Father Wilson, a Catholic priest, told AsiaNews that real victims of the shutdown were the "innocent children".

"The election was designed to strengthen the absolute monarchy and has been a total failure," said Krishna Sitaula, a spokesman for the Nepali Congress, traditionally the government party till February 2005 when the king took direct control.

In the 1999 parliamentary elections, voter turnout out was 66 per cent; in the 1997 municipal elections, it was 62 per cent.

This time, in 55 per cent of local races there were no candidates; in another 30 per cent, only one candidate ran. Actual voting thus took place in 15 per cent of all municipalities.

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