Nepalese vote for King, snub political parties

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Nepalese voters in their tiny mountain kingdom have given what is a virtual endorsement of one of the world's last remaining absolute monarchies by rejecting political parties.

A majority of the 4.4 million voters who took part in Nepal's first national election in 21 years decided to stick with the nonparty "panchayat" system of representation in future elections rather than reinstate political parties, which have been banned since 1960.

The May 14 results, which took 12 days to tabulate because of extreme communication and transportation problems from remote mountain villages, stunned proponents of the multiparty system. They had predicted large majorities of 80 to 90 percent for their side.

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For months some have contended the election would be rigged against them. Officials in the Nepalese capital of Katmandu braced themselves for possible violent street demonstrations and renewed charges of influencing, pressuring, or buying votes.

In a broadcast shortly after the results were announced May 14, King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev said, "No one should venture to undermine or play mockery with the will and the mandate of our people.

"An attitude of insolence, anarchy, or violence goes against the very principles of democracy and peace," the King warned. "I wish to make it clear that if some elements are out to create problems on the peaceful evolution of our democracy, the Nepalese people will not sit back as silent spectators." He urged Nepails to "set aside whatever grudges they may have had and unite in a common cause."

The turnout of about 62 percent of the 7.2 million eligible adult voters was considered remarkable, given Nepal's 20 percent literacy rate and walks of up to four miles to the polling booths.

The vote is viewed as a rejection of the dissension of political party rivalries. And it underscores satisfaction with the major "panchayat" reforms already proclaimed by King Birendra.

These include direct election to the National legislative Assembly by universal adult suffrage instead of indirect election through layers of councils , and selection of the prime minister by the National Assemply instead of appointment by the King.

Despite the outcome, many Nepalese officials predict privately that a multiple party system will evolve as candidates compere, win, and lose in the general election -- at least one year off -- for the national assembly.

Officials say the King is expected to name an interim government to run the country untill the general.

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