Nepal votes Thursday. China and India are watching closely.

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Nepal votes Thursday. China and India are watching closely.


A staff member of the Nepal election office counts ballot boxes before distributing them for the second round of the general election in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Nov. 28. (Narendra Shresth/European Pressphoto Agency-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)

KATHMANDU, NEPAL — Nepal will vote Thursday in a landmark election that will be closely watched by neighboring India and China, each hoping for a win for their domestic allies in the small Himalayan nation.

The national election comes as China is expanding its influence across Asia, including by ramping up investments in Nepal — a development that analysts say has rattled India, long the dominant Asian power in the country.

“Nepal has been liberated from dependency on only one neighbor,” Left Alliance leader Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli said to a cheering crowd at a recent campaign rally in the city of Pokhara.

The Left Alliance has campaigned on a call to counter India’s dominance in Nepal with Chinese power. On the other side, incumbent Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is widely thought to be pro-India, has called for balancing Indian and Chinese power.

India’s influence in Nepal was unrivaled for decades. The countries share an open border, thriving trade links and common religions and customs. But in the past several years, China has redoubled investments in Nepal, building up infrastructure that could increase trade between the two countries, and making plans to expand Nepal’s vast untapped hydropower infrastructure, which could yield large returns — and displace India’s dominance here.

Chinese investors have built roads, hospitals, colleges and malls and are drawing up plans to set up rail links and power transmission lines. At Kathmandu’s international airport, incoming travelers are greeted by a large advertisement of a “Made in China” mall that sells everything from rice cookers to doormats.


Work is underway at a construction site operated by China’s Shanghai Construction Group in the Kalanki Chowk area of Kathmandu on Nov. 1. (Sara Hylton/Bloomberg News)

In Pokhara, a tourist hotspot in central Nepal, China is helping build a new airport, a huge development for the small landlocked country of 29 million. Ministerial visits between Kathmandu and Beijing have increased in the last two years, and scholarships and exchanges to China have created new opportunities for young Nepalis.

“China has been flooding Nepal with investment,” said Constantino Xavier, an analyst at Carnegie India. “That’s a big game-changing development. For the first time really, in the history of the country, China is giving Nepal an alternative to India.”

The option of a second friendly neighborhood giant gives Nepal a bargaining chip to resist India’s dominance in the country — a prospect that puts new emphasis on Nepali sovereignty. In election rhetoric, this new focus on sovereignty is expressed in nationalistic, anti-India terms: restoring Nepal to a time before foreign countries dominated internal politics.



A new emphasis on political independence is increasingly important to Nepalis, said Kathmandu-based political analyst Achyut Wagle. “The popular definition of nationalism in Nepal is remaining interconnected with India and China but retaining political sovereignty,” he said.

For some voters, the rhetoric of restoring Nepal to past glory resonates.

“I think the party I feel like voting [for] is popular because it strongly claims Nepal as a nation that is capable of bringing those golden days of Nepal back, where Nepal stood economically, socially and politically strong without aid dependency,” said Jyoti Singh Bhandari, a lawyer who will cast her ballot Thursday.


Workers construct a road at a site run by a Chinese company in Kathmandu. Chinese investment in Nepal has surpassed India’s. (Sara Hylton/Bloomberg News)

For Nepalis, this election marks a pivotal moment in the tempestuous transition from monarchy to republic. Nepal has changed governments 26 times in the past 28 years. Many hope this election will bring political stability and much-needed development to the country, which ranks among the poorest in the world.

A devastating earthquake struck Nepal in 2015, killing around 9,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. In the aftermath of the quake, India criticized a new constitution that diluted powers for New Delhi’s allies in Nepal. Then Indian trucks carrying food and fuel stopped crossing Nepal’s border. India said the trucks could not pass because border protests caused security issues, but many Nepalis believe the country deliberately imposed a blockade to strong-arm politicians into changing the constitution. The Indian government denies that a blockade was imposed.

[India and China step back from the brink of war — but can it last? ]

The blockade turned opinion against India, prompting some Nepali politicians to change their tune on foreign affairs. Oli, once known as the “Man of India for his close links to New Delhi’s establishment, became the country’s most vocal critic.

The Left Alliance, jointly led by Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leader of the Maoist Communist Party of Nepal, has also pledged to renegotiate treaties with India and increase ties with China. Even other pro-India politicians, such as the incumbent prime minister, are now talking about a balancing act between Nepal’s bordering behemoths.


Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, former prime minister and co-leader of Nepal’s Left Alliance, waves to the crowd ahead of the upcoming second round of a general election in Kathmandu. (Narendra Shresth/European Pressphoto Agency-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)

For Nepalis, “India is seen as overtly trying to influence elections,” said Akhilesh Upadhyay, editor in chief of the Kathmandu Post. “Many Nepalis resent that.”

China, on the other hand, conducts diplomacy behind closed doors, analysts said, and lavishes Nepal with desperately needed infrastructure investments.

“India’s traditional strategy to play politics in Kathmandu, by facilitating the creation of favorable coalition governments, is becoming increasingly redundant,” said Xavier, the Carnegie India analyst. “China’s inroads have made New Delhi realize the urgency of delivering more, better and faster on economic assistance and connectivity. There are no Indian passenger trains to Nepal, not even up the hills to Kathmandu, and meanwhile China is doing feasibility studies for a railway across the Himalayan mountains.”

Despite strong trading ties, India and China spar over borders and compete for strategic control in Asia. Many issues divide the two countries: China has long been suspicious of India giving citizenship to Tibetan exiles, including the Dalai Lama, who the Chinese consider dangerous separatists. Border skirmishes flare up frequently, most recently in the Doklam region in the Himalayas when Indian troops moved in to stop Chinese road building in territory claimed by Bhutan, a close ally of India.

[A Nepali teen died after she was banished to a hut for having her period]

As China expands its influence in Nepal, analysts say India’s leaders are worried the country’s long-open land border with Nepal could be used to flood the country with Chinese exports. Guarding the border would strain military resources.

But Nepali politicians’ embrace of China is a cautious one. The vast majority of Nepal’s international trade still happens with India, and hundreds of thousands of Nepalis have gone to India for work or study. Even the Left Alliance manifesto, despite Oli’s anti-India campaigning, promises to balance the roles of India and China in the country, Wagle said.

For many Nepalis, this tug of war will weigh on their decisions as they vote Thursday. “We have been time and again hit by India,” said Umesh Giri, who will cast his ballot in the country’s mid-western district of Surkhet, “which is why it is important to try and approach different foreign relations.”


Guru, 18, waits for a daily wage job under an election poster at a labor market in Kathmandu last month. Unemployment allowances for youth ages 18-25 has been one of Nepal’s election issues. (Narendra Shresth/European Pressphoto Agency-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)
 

Villager

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Nepal closes border with India for 72 hrs ahead of Dec 7 polls

The Indo-Nepal border will open on Thursday evening.

Silent period has started ahead of elections from Tuesday when candidates are restricted to conduct any type of election campaign.

The Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and National Investigation Department have been deployed at the polling booth sites to maintain peaceful environment during the elections so that the voters could cast votes without any fear.

The elections are being seen as the final step in Nepal’s transition to a federal democracy following a decade-long civil war till 2006 that claimed more than 16,000 lives.

While many hope Nepal’s first state elections will hasten regional development, others fear they will spark a fresh wave of violence.

In 2015, when Nepal adopted a new Constitution that split it into seven states, dozens of people were killed in ethnic clashes over territory and rights.

Following the adoption of the new Constitution in 2015, the ethnic Madhesi group, mostly of Indian-origin, protested for months, saying they were not getting enough territory in one of the states and were also facing discrimination.

Violent clashes not only left more than 50 people dead, but also left the country with severe shortages of fuel and medicine because protesters blocked the borders with India.

The protesters finally agreed to the elections after some amendments were made to the Constitution.

The polls are taking place under a new Constitution passed by lawmakers in September 2015 as part of a peace process that began with the end of a decade-long civil war.

The polls are a major step toward implementing the new Constitution.
 

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In final Nepal vote today, promise of huge change and a complex outcome
India has frequently been accused of “micro-managing” Nepal’s politics, and China has gained at India’s cost in popularity and acceptability in Nepal.


An election official sets up a polling booth in Kathmandu Wednesday. (Reuters)

Some 12.3 million out of a total electorate of 15.4 million will vote in the second and last phase of elections for a federal and seven provincial legislatures in Nepal on Thursday. This will be the first election under the country’s new constitution that came into effect in September 2015, and the campaign has been shot through with a strong sense of history in the making, the panic triggered by over a hundred small and large terrorist attacks tragetting high-profile candidates notwithstanding.

The first phase of polling on November 26, when votes were cast for 37 parliamentary and 74 provincial legislature seats, saw a turnout of 65%. Nepal’s Parliament will have 275 seats, 165 of which will be decided by direct voting in which the winner will be chosen by the ‘first past the post’ system that is in vogue in India; the remaining 110 seats will be decided by a system of proportional representation. The seven provincial legislatures will together have 330 members; each of these Houses will have a different strength.

The final outcome of the election will take about a month to be declared. The exercise is being watched with great interest by the world, and especially China and India, who played very significant roles in the peace process that has brought sweeping political change in Nepal since April 2006. For the three biggest parties — the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Left Alliance comprising the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (CPN-MC) — the election is the vehicle for the irreversible constitutional endorsement of Nepal’s transformation into a secular Republic from a Hindu Kingdom.

Deep suspicions

About eight parties worked closely with India, visibly since 2005, to bring the Maoists, then engaged in an insurgency aimed at establishing a communist state, on to a peaceful, democratic, anti-monarchy platform. Following the first election to the Constituent Assembly in April 2008, the 240-year-old monarchy was abolished, but at that moment also began the parties’ drift away from their public pledge to pursue politics through “consensus”.

Today, the friends-turned-foes are deeply suspicious of each other. “If the communists come to power, our freedoms will be snatched by a totalitarian regime,” Prime Minister and NC chairman Sher Bahadur Deuba has been saying repeatedly. The Left Alliance has scoffed at this, but its leaders have shied away from talking about a plan to bring about sweeping amendments in the constitution to create two power centres — a consolidated ruling party after unification, and an Executive President in place of the ceremonial Head of State.

Campaign for boycott

The series of still-unexplained bombings indicates action by underground militant groups to disturb the polls.
The Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, based in Madhes, the eastern Terai primarily inhabited by Maithali- and Bhojpuri-speaking people, agreed to participate in the election only after prodding by India — but attracted, in the process, strong criticism from a section of the radical elite. A senior advisor to the UK government’s overseas aid arm, the Department for International Development (DFID), put out an abusive post on social media against the top three Madhesi leaders. European Union diplomats have been in touch with C K Raut, a campaigner for an independent Madhes, who has been asking people in the Madhes area to invalidate their votes, which could then be claimed as proof of support for secession. A large EU election observers team has been camping in Nepal for the past three weeks, and monitoring the behaviour of state agencies towards campaigning for a boycott. Kathmandu and some other parts of the country have also witnessed large rallies to demand the restoration of the monarchy and of Nepal’s Hindu status.

Neighbours and the elections

India has frequently been accused of “micro-managing” Nepal’s politics, and China has gained at India’s cost in popularity and acceptability in Nepal. Foreign Direct Investment flows from China have increased, including in the crucial tourism and hydropower sectors, and Nepal has ignored India’s advice to not join President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.

China does not seem happy with the current NC-led government in Kathmandu. Following the cancellation of the contract for the 1,200 MW Budhi Gandaki hydropower project that had been awarded to China’s Gezhouba Group, Zhang Shubin, the influential director of the Nepal Centre at the Hebei University of Economy and Business, wrote in the communist party mouthpiece Global Times that the “capricious backtrack on agreement of the current Nepali Congress government did not just harm the legitimate right of the Chinese corporation, but showed an unfriendly attitude towards China”. After Chinese Ambassador Yu Hong suggested to the government that handing over the Budhi Gandaki contract to India, as was being speculated in a section of the Indian media, would be seen as an “unfriendly act”, the government announced hastily that Nepal would build the project itself. K P Oli, the projected Prime Minister of the Left Alliance, has said that in the event of his victory, the Chinese company would get back the project.

Having burnt its fingers in Nepal, India appears to treading cautiously, indicated by an unusual silence over the elections. It has huge stakes in Nepal, but can clearly no longer treat its Himalayan neighbour as part of its sole sphere of influence.
 
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Villager

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Nepal leftist alliance heading for election victory

The election pits the centrist Nepali Congress party of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who heads a loose alliance that includes the Madhesi parties from Nepal’s southern plains and former royalists, against the tight-knit alliance of former Maoists and the moderate Communist UML party.

The Nepali Congress party is considered a pro-India group, while the opposition alliance is seen as closer to China.

Nepal is a natural buffer between the two and the outcome could indicate whether China or India gets the upper hand in the battle for influence in a nation rich in hydropower and home to Mount Everest.

According to preliminary results by Nepal's Election Commission on Saturday, the alliance of Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) has won 19 seats in the National Assembly and is leading in 81 other constituencies.

In the assembly, 165 seats are directly elected and 110 are allocated to parties based on proportional representation.

The Nepal Congress, which was the largest party in the last election, has so far won only three seats.

http://abcnews.go.com/International...t-parties-leading-poll-results-nepal-51684763
 

Willy2

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Maoist going to ruin everything....It's coup time. We need to do what US did with allende in Chili
 

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