Nepal assembly begins voting to choose country's first president

Members of Nepal's constituent assembly Saturday began voting to choose the country's first president following the abolition of the country's monarchy earlier this year, reported dpa.

The vote came exactly 50 days after the same assembly voted overwhelmingly to end the 240-year-old Shah Dynasty and establish the country as a republic.

The period leading up to the voting however was marred by growing political differences among the main ruling political parties that have split the three-year-old alliance.

The assembly members will choose the president from three candidates representing the three main political parties.

The candidate must secure a simple majority in the 601 member assembly but with the parties split on a candidate, none were expected to obtain the required majority, analysts said.

"If no candidate gets a majority, then the top two candidates will contest a runoff vote," the parliament secretariat said.

"The election should be completed by Saturday afternoon and the country could have a new president by the evening," the secretariat said.

The Maoist-backed candidate Ram Raja Singh had held a slight edge over his rivals, Nepali Congress general secretary Ram Baran Yadav and Ramprit Paswan of the Communist Party of Nepal - Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).

However, a last minute alliance between Nepali Congress and CPN- UML changed the overall balance and a two-way fight now appeared likely.

All three candidates are from the minority ethnic Madhesi community which has a large representation in southern Nepal.

Singh, led a brief armed uprising against the monarchy carrying out bomb attacks in several locations in Kathmandu, including the royal palace, 23 years ago.

He was sentenced to death in absentia by a court but was never captured and was lived in exile in India.

The assembly will also elect a vice president, an office that is being contested by four candidates.

The Maoists have 210 members in the assembly but is still short of a majority. The party has been in consultation with ethnic-based parties to elect their president.

The election marks a dramatic move by Nepal towards peace following the end of a Maoist insurgency nearly two and half years ago.

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