Former Maoist rebels appear to have won power at the ballot box in Nepal, with final election results expected to show that a group still labeled a terrorist organization by the United States has won in a landslide. The step would mark a remarkable transition for a movement that led a 10-year insurgency that claimed up to 14,000 lives. The BBC reported that the Maoists' leader, known by his nom de guerre, Prachandra or "the fierce one," said his party was "committed to the peace process and multiparty democracy and to rebuild this country." (The Christian Science Monitor)
What the commentators said
The Maoists didn’t win at the polls by being nice, said The Economist in an analysis. The campaign was marred by violence, and Maoist “thugs” were the most brutal. “But, in a country well-used to political violence, voter intimidation alone cannot explain the Maoists’ fledgling success.” The Nepalese “have much to be disenchanted with,” and the vote was a clear sign that the people want more from their “war-eroded” state.
A Maoist victory would “doom” the country’s monarchy, said Steve Herman of the Voice of America, but it will also create trouble for India. The Maoists will almost certainly use their majority in Nepal’s special assembly to craft a new foreign policy for their nation. Their first priority may be renegotiating the 58-year-old India-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty, which has effectively put Nepal under “India's security umbrella and prevented Nepal from making strategic ties with China, its other giant neighbor.”
There’s certainly every reason to think this will complicate India’s relationship with Nepal, “given the red brigade’s links with China as well as Indian left wing extremists,” said The Times of India in an editorial. The Maoists won’t be able to form a government, but they will have a powerful say in the drafting of a new constitution. “India needs to get ready to deal with a new set of Nepali leaders who are less in awe of New Delhi and not so amenable to accepting 'suggestions' as might have been the case in the past.”