A leader of Nepal’s main opposition party CPN-UML was elected the mayor of Kathmandu today, defeating his nearest rival from Nepali Congress by over 19,000 votes in the first local polls held in 20 years. Bidya Sundar Shakya, 54, secured 64,913 votes to defeat Nepali Congress’s Raju Raj Joshi, who secured 45,269 votes. Shakya’s Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist– Leninist), which contested the polls held on May 14 on the main plank of nationalism, is known for its anti-India stance. Its president K P Sharma Oli, who became Nepal’s prime minister in October 2015, resigned in August last year blaming India for his fall. He had then alleged that India was behind the months-long agitation by the Madhesis, who are of India- origin and were demanding amendments to the new Constitution.
Shakya, talking to reporters at City Hall of Kathmandu where the counting took place, expressed his commitment to bring Metro rail network to the Kathmandu valley. He vowed to take steps to reduce air pollution during his five-year term. Hariprabhav Shrestha of Nepali Congress, a coalition partner of the ruling alliance, was elected the deputy mayor of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
The youngest female candidate for mayoral post, Ranju Darshana, representing the newly-formed Biveksheel Nepali Party, which is being described here as a party similar to India’s Aam Aadmi Party, came third with 23,449 votes – far more than Maoist candidate Sarvottam Dangol, who secured 7,900 votes. In the tourist spot of Pokhara, CPN-UML defeating the nearest rival from Nepali Congress. In Lalitpur metropolitan city, Nepali Congress won the posts of mayor and deputy mayor.
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Of the four metropolitan cities in Nepal where the elections were held, results of three have been declared and the CPN-UML has won the mayoral post in two of them. The results for Bharatpur metropolitan city seat has not been declared yet. Renu Dahal, the daughter of caretaker Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ is contesting on her Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist-Centre’s ticket from the seat.
The election, divided in two phases, is a major step in Nepal’s difficult transition to democracy as local elections are being held for the first time in 20 years. The final phase is set for June 14, when the restive southern Terai region which is home to the ethnic Madhesi population, will head to the ballot box. Political parties representing Madhesi people have opposed the polls until the Constitution is amended to address their demands. They seek more political representation in the parliament and redrawing of provincial boundaries.