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Assembly votes on new PM

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Lawmakers elected a Maoist who led a decade-long insurgency against the Hindu monarchy as Nepal's new prime minister on Friday, marking the Himalayan nation's radical change into a democratic republic.


Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the chief of once-feared Maoist guerrillas who still uses his nom de guerre Prachanda, won 464 votes out of 577 ballots cast in a special Constituent Assembly vote after weeks of political battles.


The election opens the way for the formation of a new government, capping a peace process that ended a civil war in which more than 13,000 people died since 1996.


Mr Prachanda defeated Mr Sher Bahadur Deuba, a three-time former prime minister from a centrist party.


His colleague, Mr Baburam Bhattarai, seen as number two in the Maoist hierarchy, said Maoist politicians including Prachanda will no longer hold any posts in the Maoist rebel army and will return property seized by them during the war.


'Today is a day of pride and it will be written with golden letters in the history of the nation,' Mr Bhattarai said.


The Maoists scored a surprise win in a special assembly election in April but did not get a parliamentary majority, prompting a battle for power that left Nepal struggling to form a new government four months after the polls.


The assembly abolished the 239-year-old monarchy and declared the mountainous nation a republic in May.


Mr Prachanda, 53, led an insurgency against the monarchy in the jungles around the Himalayan foothills.


But once he came out of the jungle, Mr Prachanda transformed himself from a revolutionary insurgent into a wily politician, insisting that Maoists are not 'dogmatic communists' and that globalisation and free markets were facts of life.


He has promised land reform in one of the world's poorest countries, where 80 per cent of the 26.4 million people depend on farming for a living.


The Maoist former guerrillas are still on the U.S. list of terrorist organisations, although US officials have reportedly met with Mr Prachanda.


Mr Prachanda, a former agricultural science teacher, is seen as a strong leader by his colleagues, who say he has infused loyalty and discipline among his followers.


The Maoists control 227 seats in the assembly that currently has 595 members.

Edited by anish dahal

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