VIDYA DEVI BHANDARI First Woman President

Nepal's parliament has elected the first woman president of Nepal and placed two former Maoist rebels in other key positions

Nov. 8, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.09, No-9, November 6, 2015 (Kartik 20, 2072)

Although it took time for other South Asian nations to have a woman head of the state, Nepal has elected the first woman president right after the promulgation of a new constitution.

This history-making opportunity went to Bidhya Devi Bhandari, widow of former Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist Party (CPN-UML) leader late Madan Bhandari, who died in a mysterious car accident.  Bhandari defeated her rival and Nepali Congress leader KB Gurung in the parliament's elections.

Just after electing Onsari Gharti Magar as the first woman speaker, the Legislature Parliament set another record by electing Bhandari as the president. Similarly, former Maoist rebel commander Nanda Bahadur Pun was elected as the vice president.

This is for the first time in the history of Nepal three former rebels got elected to the top positions. Like vice president Pun and speaker Gharti Magar, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli was himself a Naxalite commander.

Interestingly, all the communist and rebel leaders, who were groomed in Nepali politics by a liberal democratic party Nepali Congress, are now elected with the support from RPP-Nepal and RPP, the ultra-rightists.

Bhandari was elected as Nepal's first woman President after she defeated her rival from Nepali Congress by more than 100 votes. Bhandari, 54, secured 327 votes against 214 votes of her rival veteran Nepali Congress leader Kul Bahadur Gurung.

The new President succeeds Dr. Ram Baran Yadav who was elected as the first President of Nepal in 2008 after the country was declared a Republic.

Following the promulgation of the Constitution on September 20, it was mandatory to elect Prime Minister, Speaker of Legislature Parliament, President and Vice president within a month of the commencement of the Parliament session.

"I announce that Vidhya Devi Bhandari has been elected to the post of Nepal's president," said Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar, to loud cheers from lawmakers.

Bhandari, a rare female face in Nepal's parliament, took up politics in her teens, seeking to overturn the absolute monarchy and later marrying a fellow communist, Madan Bhandari.

But it was after her husband's death in a vehicle accident in 1993 that the mother of two became a prominent voice, riding a wave of sympathy to win a seat in parliament.

The constitution, the first drawn up by elected representatives, was meant to cement peace and bolster Nepal's transformation to a democratic republic after decades of political instability and a 10-year Maoist insurgency.

More than 40 people have been killed in clashes between police and ethnic minority protesters, who say a new federal structure laid out in the charter adopted last month will leave them under-represented in parliament.

Pun’s election comes three days after Nepal’s parliament elected Vidhya Bhandari as the country’s first woman president. The elections were being held as per provisions of the new constitution adopted last month.

Although they were elected from the Legislature Parliament, none of the three rebels have denounced violence. The question now is how they adjust with the security apparatus and the answer will determine the future course of Nepal’s politics. 

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