KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Maoist leader, who swapped arms for politics when his “people’s war” ended in 2006, threw the country’s elections into doubt on Thursday by claiming the poll was rigged following big losses for his party.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, demanded a halt to vote-counting after losing his own seat on Tuesday’s elections aimed at installing a constituent assembly and ending years of political instability.
“We urge the election commission to stop the counting,” Prachanda told a press conference. “We accept [the]people’s verdict but cannot accept conspiracy and poll-rigging.”
He said ballot boxes were tampered with while being transported from polling stations to counting centers.
Prachanda, the country’s first post-war prime minister, finished a distant third in his Kathmandu constituency, well behind the winning Nepali Congress party candidate, Rajan K.C., according to the election commission.
Early results showed the Maoist party trailing badly in the elections, seen as vital to completing a peace process which has drifted in recent years because of a prolonged political crisis.
Tentative results showed them leading in just eight percent of the 176 constituencies where vote-counting has been completed or is well under way.
Even if the party were to sweep the remaining 64 directly elected seats, it would have won less than one third of the vote.
More than a hundred protesters gathered outside the Maoist headquarters in Kathmandu, shouting slogans in support of the party’s stance. “We are ready to fight again,” they yelled.
Millions of Nepalis voted on Tuesday, registering a higher turnout than during the first post-war elections in 2008 for an assembly, which also acts as a parliament and is tasked with writing a constitution.
The Maoists swept those elections five years ago, promising social change, economic growth and lasting peace in a country, which lost an estimated 16,000 lives in the conflict.