CPN(UML) and Nepali Congress neck and neck; Maoists trounced

The Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and Nepali Congress were locked in a neck-and-neck fight on Friday while the Maoists faced a rout in the election to choose a 601-member Constituent Assembly that will draft Nepal’s new Constitution.

The CPN (UML) and the Nepali Congress had won 72 each of the 170 seats for which results had been declared. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, had won 15 seats.

The Constituent Assembly will include 240 members elected under a direct voting system. Proportionate voting will elect members to 335 seats and the remaining 26 members will be nominated by the government.

Top leaders who had been declared winners included CPN (UML) chairman Jhalanath Khanal; CPN (UML) leader and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal — who has been elected from two constituencies; UCPN (Maoist) vice-chairman and former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai; and Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Terai Madhes Democratic Party and Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum (Democratic) have bagged three seats each.

Madhesi Peoples Rights Forum (Nepal) and an independent candidate have won a seat each in the election held on November 19.

UCPN (Maoist) leader Mr. Prachanda suffered a double blow as he and his daughter were handed humiliating defeats in the polls. Mr. Prachanda lost from Kathmandu Constituency 10 but he is also a candidate from Siraha Constituency 5, where he was leading the vote count.

Mr. Prachanda’s daughter Renu Dahal lost to Nepali Congress general secretary Prakash Man Singh by a big margin.

Final results are not expected until late next week, as ballot boxes were still being transported by helicopters and even on foot by porters to counting centres.

After their poll rout UCPN(Maoists) are threatening to boycott the newly-elected Constituent Assembly, alleging conspiracy.

The vote was only the second one since a civil war launched by Maoist rebels ended in 2006. Nepal was then transformed into a secular republic.

The country plunged into a constitutional crisis after the previous Assembly was dissolved without promulgating the Constitution last year, and fresh elections scheduled for November 2012 were not held.