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This is the first time Maoist chairman Puspa Kamal Dahal, better known by his nom de guerre Prachanda, or “The Fierce One,” and an overwhelming majority of his party comrades are standing in an election. During the last national election held in 1999, the Maoists were underground, fighting a war.
The assembly will have a total of 601 members, 335 of whom will be elected by proportional electoral system, in which Nepalese vote for a party. Another 240 will be chosen by direct vote. The remaining 26 will be nominated by the prime minister.
Under the proportional electoral system, parties will get seats according to the percentage of votes they receive. There will be two sets of ballot papers one for the direct vote and one for the proportional system.
The proportional system might not play to the Maoists’ advantage, analysts say, as their strong areas are the remote hills, which are sparsely populated. And the Maoists, who joined the interim parliament in 2007 as the second-largest party, may not be comfortable with a small presence in the elected assembly, analysts say.
Former leader Prachanda is running from a constituency in Kathmandu and one in Rolpa district, the cradle of the Maoist insurgency. While his victory in Rolpa is almost certain, he is an outsider in Kathmandu, which is a stronghold of Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).
And of the 240 candidates fielded by the Maoists for the directly elected seats in the assembly, only a handful participated in any election in the past.
The Maoist leadership tried to forge an electoral alliance with the CPN-UML, the second-largest party in Nepal’s parliament in all past elections since 1990. The two parties negotiated last month to withdraw each other’s candidates in a number of constituencies so that the communist vote is not divided, but failed to reach agreement.