Bidya Devi Bhandari, Nepal’s 1st female president, wins second term

Bidya Devi Bhandari, Nepal’s 1st female president, wins second term
Bidya Devi Bhandari

Bidya Devi Bhandari, Nepal’s 1st female president, wins second term

Nepal’s first woman president Bidya Devi Bhandari was today re-elected for a second term in office.

Incumbent President Bhandari defeated Nepali Congress leader Kumari Laxmi Rai with an overwhelming majority in the presidential election.

Bhandari, 56, won since her nomination was backed by the ruling Left alliance of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist and CPN (Maoist Centre), the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal and other fringe parties.

She became Nepal’s first woman president in 2015.

With 148 lawmakers in the Federal Parliament and 243 in Provincial Assemblies, the CPN-UML commands a total vote of 23,356.

CPN (Maoist Centre) has 65 lawmakers in parliament and 108 in provincial assemblies, which account for 10,319 votes.

The Nepali Congress, which has 76 seats in parliament and 113 in provincial assemblies, has a total vote of 11,428.

As Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal and other fringe parties also deciding to support Bhandari, she could easily garner 26,921 votes for her re-election.

An electoral college, including members of parliament and provincial assemblies, will vote in the election.

The 56-year-old took up politics in her teens, joining the fight to overturn the monarchy’s centuries-long rule and later marrying a fellow communist, Madan Bhandari.

It was after her husband’s death in a mysterious car accident in 1993 that the mother of two became a prominent voice, riding a wave of sympathy to win a seat in parliament.

As Nepal’s political map was being redrawn after the end of the brutal Maoist insurgency in 2006 and overthrow of the king two years later, Bhandari campaigned hard to bring woman’s voices to parliament.

She was first elected president in 2015, shortly after Nepal’s post-war constitution was passed, which carves out one-third of seats in parliament for woman and mandates that either the president or vice president must be a woman.

Bhandari is not the only woman at the top of Nepal’s government. House speaker Onsari Gharti Magar has presided over the often raucous parliament with an iron fist since 2015, the first woman to hold the position.

Meanwhile, Sushila Karki served as the country’s first female chief justice until her retirement in 2017, shocking her political backers when she took a tough stance on Nepal’s endemic corruption.

Bhandari is a close ally of the ruling Communist bloc that has a strong majority in parliament as well as six of the seven provincial assemblies.

The Communists rode to a thumping victory late last year in local, provincial and national elections that capped Nepal’s tumultuous 11 year transition from monarchy to federal democracy.