The Long March in Nepal

KATMANDU – Confounding everyone except themselves, Nepal’s hard-line Maoists have taken a commanding role following the country’s landmark elections. The people of Nepal have more than one reason to celebrate.

The first nationwide poll in nearly a decade passed off relatively well and was endorsed by Nepali officials as well as the hundreds of international election observers. According to former US President Jimmy Carter, the election was the most “transformational” of the many polls he has observed around the world. The high voter turnout, coupled with the relatively peaceful manner in which the election took place, is a testament to the Nepali people’s desire to cement the peace process and contribute in determining the political future of the country.

The Maoists, former rebels who until two years ago were waging a brutal “people’s” war, will soon lead the next government in Nepal. The former rebels have received the maximum number of seats in the constituencies where counting is complete.

Surprisingly, both local and international analysts had predicted them to finish third, behind the Nepali Congress (NC) and the United Marxist-Leninists (UML), the two largest parties that have been at the helm since multi-party democracy was restored in Nepal in 1990. While experts are busy trying to explain the Maoists’ unprecedented triumph, much hope rests on the newly elected members of the 601-seat Constituent Assembly.