Maoists' Margin Widens in Nepal Parliament Vote; Counterparts in India Kill Six

Article excerpt

Byline: Jason Motlagh, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

KATMANDU, Nepal - A Maoist political party appeared headed for control of Nepal yesterday in a historic first that threatens to embolden another Maoist movement in neighboring India.

Never before have Maoists taken power in a democratic election.

But in Nepal, Maoists yesterday extended their lead as vote-counting continued following nationwide elections Thursday, officials said, and appear poised to control a national assembly that will rewrite the constitution and abolish the 240-year-old monarchy.

Of 601 seats up for grabs in the new Constituent Assembly, 212 have been decided.

The Maoists have won 101 seats and are ahead in 11 other contests as of the latest tally, the election commission said.

The exotic Himalayan kingdom is best known in the U.S. as a destination for backpacking tourists and mountain climbers headed for Mt. Everest.

But for nearly a decade, Nepal was gripped by a Maoist insurgency, in which an estimated 13,000 people died.

In nearby India, the world's largest democracy and one with growing ties to the U.S., another Maoist movement - known as the Naxalites - is increasing in strength and embraces an area containing roughly a quarter of India's population.

In eastern India, Maoist rebels fatally shot five policemen and a luggage porter and seriously wounded two others in an attack on a railroad station, police said yesterday.

Members of the Nepalese and Indian Maoist movements formed a strategic alliance during a 2001 meeting in Calcutta. At the time, India's Home Affairs Ministry confirmed reports of Naxalites offering training and medical care to Nepalese Maoists.

While the violence continues in India, however, their Nepalese brethren have taken a different path, by signing a peace pact with other political parties in 2006.

Massive pro-democracy protests that year forced Nepal's King Gyanendra to reinstate parliament, which then quickly moved to diminish his powers.

As of yesterday, the centrist Nepali Congress, the country's largest party, had won just 30 seats and was leading in races for 11 others, the election commission said. …