Nepal: Communist Bhandari is first female president

Nepalese parliament elects women’s rights campaigner to top post

NEPAL’S parliament elected the country’s first female president yesterday. Communist Party of Nepal — Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) vice-chair Bidhya Devi Bhandari was elected by 327 votes to 214 for Nepali Congress party leader Kul Bahadur Gurung.She was supported by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal — Maoist and the monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RRP).

Former defence minister Ms Bhandari is an active campaigner for women’s rights in Nepal and was among the politicians who campaigned for ensuring women’s rights in the country’s new constitution.

The constitution, passed by the constituent assembly last month, stipulates that one-third of MPs must be women, along with either the president or vice-president.

It also says women must be included in all government committees and assemblies including the national and state assemblies.

Ms Bhandari emerged as a leader following the suspicious death of her husband, CPN-UML general secretary Madan Bhandari, in a car accident in 1993.

She led many of the demonstrations that led to the overthrow of King Gyanendra in 2006 and the establishment of Nepal as a republic.

CPN-UML president Khadga Prasad Oli was elected prime minister on October 11, immediately faced with the task of ending the Indian blockade of landlocked Nepal which has led to crippling fuel shortages.

Home Ministry spokesperson Laxmi Prasad Dhakal accused India last month of “revenge” as it was not happy with Nepal’s new secular republican constitution.

Joint deputy PM and RRP president Kamal Thapa returned from a trip to New Delhi last week with assurances from Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that India would allow 300 fuel tankers across the border.

On Sunday the Nepal Oil Corporation announced that China would supply 286,000 gallons of petrol through the recently reopened northern route that was damaged in April’s devastating earthquake.

China will deliver the fuel though the mountain pass from the remote south of the Tibetan autonomous region, from where 100 tankers will take it to the capital Kathmandu.

A team led by Nepalese ambassador Mahesh Maskey will hold talks with Chinese officials this week on establishing regular fuel supplies from China.

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