Nepalese lawmakers reelect female president

Deepak Adhikari

KATHMANDU: Nepalese lawmakers on Tuesday reelected Bidhya Devi Bhandari as the country’s president, three months after the parliamentary elections were held in which a communist alliance won the largest number of seats.

Bidhya Devi Bhandari, fielded by the ruling Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) party, won the presidential election after securing 39,275 votes, according to the Election Commission.

Bhandari is returning to the top job for the second time after she became the country’s first female president in October 2015.

Laxmi Rai, the presidential candidate of opposition Nepali Congress received 11,730 votes in Tuesday’s election.

The UML and its coalition partner, the former rebel Maoists, enjoy nearly two-thirds majority in the parliament, which assured Bhandari’s victory.

While Bhandari’s elevation was smooth, local media reports indicated a tense meeting among the UML’s top leaders during endorsement of the party’s candidate for president.

In the meeting held a week back, UML leader and former Premier Jhalanath Khanal proposed himself as a party candidate, but he could not garner support of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, a key ally of Bhandari.

Nagarik newspaper Editor Tilak Pathak said Bhandari had secured the backing of her party after playing a key role in a pre-election alliance between the UML and Maoists, which brought victory to the group.

“She had good rapport with top leaders of both parties. I think she will cooperate with Oli’s government in its decision making,” Pathak told Anadolu Agency.

Under Nepal’s new constitution, presidency is largely ceremonial, with no executive power. Pathak said the UML leaders were also keen for her to continue as the head of state for a full five-year term since her first tenure ended after just two-and-a-half years. Nepal held elections for its national parliament and pro-vincial assemblies in Novem-ber and December last year. Nepal promulgated a post-war constitution in September 2015, fulfilling one of the key tasks of its peace process that began in 2006 after former Maoist rebels laid down their arms. (AA)