Nepal to vote for first president

KATHMANDU, July 19, 2008 (AFP) – Lawmakers in Nepal are expected to vote on Saturday for the country’s first president following the abolition of the Hindu monarchy, paving the way for the dominant Maoists to form a government. “With the three parties going three separate ways, the road to the smooth functioning of the new government looks rocky.”

The country has been in political limbo after a landmark meeting of a newly elected constitutional assembly sacked unpopular king Gyanendra and abolished the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy on May 28.

The rebels — who dominate but do not have a majority in the 601-member assembly — have been unable to muster enough support from two other parties to form a government.

After failing to agree on who should become president, the three main parties each put forth a candidate. Voting by 594 lawmakers will take place Saturday by secret ballot, with a simple majority of 298 needed to win.

The three men in the running are ethnic Mahadhesis who hail from the troubled lowland area bordering India known as the Terai, where demands for an autonomous federal state have seen frequent deadly clashes.

Political analysts say die-hard republican Ramraja Prasad Singh, arrested two d