KATHMANDU, March 14: President Bidya Devi Bhanari, 56, has been re-elected to the post of the head of the state for second term on Tuesday winning over two-thirds votes from the 880-member Electoral College comprising the bicameral federal parliament and seven provincial assemblies.
Bhandari, who was backed by the ruling left alliance, secured votes from 245 federal parliament members and 415 provincial assembly members. Bhandari's rival Kumari Laxmi Rai, who was backed by the Nepali Congress (NC), secured votes from 78 members of the Federal Parliament and 116 Provincial Assembly members.
All the three Provincial Assembly members from Bibeksheel Sajha Party Nepal and two from Naya Shakti Party abstained from voting accusing Bhandari of working at the behest of the CPN-UML, and not taking political decisions impartially. Both the parties argued that they decided not to take part in the voting also because they have been demanding for directly-elected presidential system.
The election law has provisioned different voting weightages for the votes of the federal parliament members and provincial assembly members.
A vote of a member of central parliament (House of Representatives and National Assembly) is given a weightage of 79 while a vote of a provincial assembly member is given a weightage of 48. The vote of a member of parliament was multiplied by its weightage number of 79 and that of a provincial assembly member by its weightage number of 48 during the count.
Bhandari secured in total vote weightage of 39,275 while her rival Rai received 11,730. A candidate must secure 50 percent of the votes from the 880 voters in the electoral college to win the election. Bhandari won 74.4 percent of the total 862 votes cast on Tuesday.
Bhandari was elected as first female president and second head of state of the republic. Born in Bhojpur district, Bhandari studied her college-level education from Bhojpur and Morang districts prior to joining active politics.
She was elected member of parliament defeating former prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai in Kathmandu after her husband Madan Bhandari, who was popular communist leader in country, was killed in a road accident 24 years ago.
Though the constitution has stated that the term of a president will be for five years, Bhandari had to contest poll for second term after two and a half years in office after the end of transition in the country. Election law had mandatory provision for electing new president within a month of the first meeting of the federal parliament.
Ruling alliance suspects defections in vote
CPN-UML leaders suspect that some members of the ruling alliance might have voted for NC candidate Rai after the opposition candidate received more votes than the party's total members. Out of the 76 members of the federal parliament from the NC only 75 participated in the vote while 112 of the 113 NC provincial assembly members cast their votes. But Rai secured three extra votes of parliamentarians and four more votes from provincial assembly members.
Some UML leaders had stood against Bhandari's candidacy after the party decided to repeat her to the post from the party meeting last week.
Taking office without resigning!
Bhandari's move to contest for second term without tendering resignation from the position has courted controversy. Some constitutional experts have criticized the move as against the spirit of the constitution.
“The constitution has given rights of president to the vice president in her absence. But her move to contest for second term without resigning at first is against the spirit of the constitution,” said constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya.
Bhandari will assume office for second term after taking oath of office from chief justice. Election Commission will announce the election of the vice president within a week, in accordance with the Election of the President and Vice President Act.