04/09/2008, 00.00
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Violence and deaths in Kathmandu on the eve of voting

At least seven Maoists have died in clashes with the police. The Maoists claim unjustified violence, but official sources accuse them of assaulting the candidates of other parties. Tomorrow the constituent assembly is elected, under tight police control and with the presence of international observers.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Maoist communist party claims that at least seven of its militants have been killed by police.  One of them was a candidate in the elections.  Other groups denounce instead the violence of the Maoists, intended to intimidate voters and block the message of the other candidates, on the eve of the decisive elections tomorrow for the 601 seats in the assembly that will approve the new republican constitution after 240 years of monarchy.

Modraj Dotel, spokesman of the interior ministry, confirms that "we have recovered six bodies from the site of a violent incident in Dang district" last night.  The Maoists say that a candidate of the rival Nepali Congress party ordered police to fire on them, during clashes with his supporters.  Official sources say instead that the Maoists tried to assault the vehicle of the politician.  A candidate of the unified Marxist-Leninist communist party, an ally of the Maoists, died in another clash in the nearby district of Surkhet.

The Maoists also say that today, during a protest demonstration they were holding, the police shot and killed a militant.

At least 135,000 policemen will provide security for the voting, which will be monitored by hundreds of observers of the United Nations, the European Union, and other bodies.  There are fears that the violence could undermine the credibility of the vote.

After years of guerrilla warfare, and more than 13,000 deaths, mostly civilians, in 2006 the Maoists agreed to put down their weapons and to participate in the electoral process. They joined the provisional government, but they have not dismantled their army, and they continue to control part of the country.  One of the unknown factors is whether they will accept any eventual electoral defeat, even though their leader Puspa Kamal Dahal, "Prachanda", reiterated today that "Whatever is the verdict of the masses, we will respect it. We will not break the peace process and continue to be a part of it. We will cooperate with other parties".

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