MonitorsPublished on Apr 13, 2008
The much anticipated Constituent Assembly (CA) elections were held on April 10, 2008. Despite wide-spread apprehensions, the elections were peaceful, with people turning out in huge numbers to cast their votes.
South Asia South Asia Weekly 14

< class="maroontitle">Maoists dominate elections

The much anticipated Constituent Assembly (CA) elections were held on April 10, 2008.  Despite wide-spread apprehensions, the elections were peaceful, with people turning out in huge numbers to cast their votes. Media reports said over 60 per cent votes were polled in 239 of the 240 electoral constituencies to elect an assembly which will draft Nepal’s new constitution. Over 10.5 million of the total 17.6 million registered voters exercised their democratic franchise. The initial election results indicated the Maoists sweeping the polls and emerging as the single largest party.

Primarily, the First-Past-The Post system results indicate the Maoists doing exceedingly well across the country. The Maoists have captured several important seats and top Maoist leaders have won with huge margins. The Nepali Congress (NC) and United Marxist Leninist (UML), on the other hand, trailed behind, winning far less seats than they had expected. Several big leaders of NC and UML have lost to lesser known Maoist candidates. The Maoist victory has come as a big surprise for many; even poll analysts and the media failed to gauge the public mood in favour of the Maoists.
The Maoists thus now have an upper hand in setting the political agenda in Nepal. They will have a greater influence, for instance, in the drafting of the new Constitution.

Sri Lanka
< class="maroontitle">Another assassination

LTTE’s Black Tiger unit carried out another political murder of the Chief Government whip and Minister of Road Development and Highways, Mr. Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, who was known for his strong anti-LTTE views. The assassination came at a time when almost all political parties welcomed LTTE’s move to contest the Eastern Provincial Council elections. The news of LTTE setting up branches in the US states of Maryland, New York and New Jersey has only raised doubts about LTTE’s intentions.
The week also saw the President Rajapaksa’s yet another visit to China in 14 months to attend the annual meeting of Boao Forum of Asia (BFA). Chinese President Hu Jintao assured the President of unconditional support in eradicating terrorism. China also appreciated Sri Lanka’s stand to ‘One China’ policy.    
On the home front, the eastern theatre witness politically significant developments with the split of the ‘king-maker’ Janata Vimukti Peramuna (JVP) which followed on the heels of another split in Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), an important player in the forthcoming elections.

< class="maroontitle">Action against anti-India terror groups

< class="maroontitle">The Indo-Bangladesh relations got a fresh impetus last week as Bangladesh vowed to take strong action against groups using its soil for anti-India activities. This declaration was the outcome of the five-day long meeting between Border Security Force and Bangladesh Rifles officials in Delhi beginning from April 8. Bangladesh requested India to enhance cooperation between both the countries’ border forces and evolve a system that will enable faster exchange of information regarding criminal activities so that timely action can be taken against these groups. Another important development in this regard was the approval of the Council of Advisors (equivalent to a council of ministers) to the agreement signed between both the countries to resume the Dhaka-Kolkata train service on April 14. 

But the relationship had its share of bad weather too. On April 9, a section of the student community belonging to Nirjaton Protirodh Andolon (Students’s Movement against Torture) affiliated to Jatiyatabadi Chatra Dal (JCD) held anti-India demonstration in the Dhaka University campus. The students accused India of conspiring against Bangladesh to turn it to a failed state. They also urged the people to engage in mass anti-India protests across the country.

< class="maroontitle">Upswing in the external relations

It had been a fruitful week for the Maldivians for three reasons. Maldives signed a bilateral agreement concerning infrastructure facilities and construction with its closest neighbour, Sri Lanka. The agreement is expected to see the development in  infrastructure and  port facilities of both countries. While the agreement would be of immense economic value to Sri Lanka, the loss will be India’s as Maldives used to buy all its building material from India. This week, China has also completed and handed over a housing project for the tsunami victims. The Red Cross Society of China and the China Charity Federation supported the project with US $ 3 million. On the third front, Maldives told the United Nations that it has accomplished most of the objectives highlighted in the Millennium Development Goals in terms of reducing infant, child and maternal mortality rates and combating communicable diseases. Reduction of the extreme poverty and universal primary education goals has also been achieved.   

< class="maroontitle">Smooth transition

< class="maroontitle">Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani managed quite successfully to clear his first hurdle in keeping the flock together in the crucial allotment of Cabinet berths. The real credit should, however, go to Asif Zardari who has been leading Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) through all kinds of minefields since his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was killed in a suicide bombing last December. Zardari’s political acumen, tested at every step in the past three months, has been the primary reason for the smooth political transition happening in Pakistan which till recently was firmly under the military rule. Zardari not only managed to resolve the contentious issue of the leadership within his own party (which at one time threatened to undo the party) but also managed to bring about a rapprochement with the bitter political rival, Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-N (PMLN), against all odds to cobble together a coalition of the impossible. If putting together a working coalition of opposites was a major achievement, the appointment of Gillani as Pakistan’s 25th Prime Minister was the crowing glory; no one could have been better qualified, both in terms of temperament and experience, in leading this coalition government faced with some of the most challenging tasks any government could face—internal instability and economic downturn. Zardari, aided in no less measure by Gillani, has managed to allocate cabinet berths at the centre without ruffling too many feathers. The duo has also managed to create similar working arrangements in Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Balochistan and Sindh (although rival Muttahida Qaumi Movement has been a ner in the works), developments indicating a smoother political transition.

< class="maroontitle">Contributors:

      • Anjali Sharma                 –  Sri Lanka, Maldives
      • Joyeeta Bhattacharjee – Bangladesh
      • Paul Soren                       – Nepal, Bhutan
      • Wilson John                    – Pakistan


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