Nepal's parliament elects first female president
KATHMANDU – Nepal’s parliament elected lawmaker Bidhya Bhandari as the country’s first female president on Wednesday, after the adoption of a landmark constitution last month.
The former defence minister defeated her opponent Kul Bahadur Gurung by 327 to 214 votes to become the Himalayan nation’s ceremonial head of state. Bhandari – the vice-chair of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) – replaces Ram Baran Yadav.
He was elected as the first president in 2008 following the abolition of a 240-year-old Hindu monarchy. “I announce that Bidhya Devi Bhandari has been elected to the post of Nepal’s president,” said Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar, to loud cheers from lawmakers.
Bhandari – a rare female face in Nepal’s parliament – took up politics in her teens, seeking to overturn the absolute monarchy and later marrying a fellow communist, Madan Bhandari.
But it was after her husband’s death in a vehicle accident in 1993 that the mother of two became a prominent voice, riding a wave of sympathy to win a seat in parliament.
Yadav was initially supposed to hold office for only two years. But years of political wrangling delayed agreement on a new constitution, which was only finally adopted last month. The 54-year-old is the second woman to be elected to a senior position since then, after Magar became the country’s first female speaker.
As required by the new charter, parliament also this month elected a new prime minister – KP Sharma Oli – who is tasked with unifying the earthquake-hit country.