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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK

World: South Asia

Nepal's women back democracy

Rural Nepalese women are turning out to vote

Nepal's fledgling democracy is being given new hope as women turn out to cast their vote in the ongoing general elections.

A decade after the tiny mountain kingdom embraced the multi-party system, most of Nepal's poor and disenfranchised remain on the margins of society.

BBC's Daniel Lak: "Women speak highly of a democratic system."
Our correspondent, Daniel Lak says, however, that women have expressed their support for democracy and are at the forefront for the push for changes in what is still a highly-traditional system.

Parties focus on women voters

[ image: Women in a polling booth]
Women in a polling booth
The enthusiasm shown by Nepal's women has led to its political parties focussing on their needs and concerns. Along with an increase in the number of women casting their vote, female candidates are on the increase.

Nepal's Communist parties have been quicker than most to take advantage of this. In the past, the Marxists have used music and drama to convey their message of class oppression among women and the poor.

Now, they have found such performances a useful medium through which to canvass for votes.

Maoist threat

[ image: Maoist graffitti]
Maoist graffitti
Fear of violence, following a threat by Maoist militants to disrupt the poll, led to heightened security in the first round of voting. The Maoists are mostly confined to the mountains, in predominantly rural areas.

They are fighting to turn Nepal into a Communist state.

Two people were killed during the election's first phase but, in general, voting was peaceful.

Political instability

The re-introduction of democracy to Nepal, after three decades of absolute monarchy, has failed to solve many of the country's difficulties.

It remains one of the poorest countries in the world, its political system hampered by corruption, political in-fighting and the failure over the last five years of any party to gain an overall majority in parliament.

This year's poll is expected to be dominated by the Nepali Congress and the Communist United Marxist Leninists.

The first stage of general elections in Nepal began on 3 May with six million people in 93 constituencies eligible to vote.

The second stage will be held on Monday with more than seven million people able to vote in 112 constituencies.

The winner of the election will form the eighth government in Nepal since 1991.

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