• Bidhya Bhandari elected Nepal’s first woman president

    29/Oct/2015 // 218 Viewers

    Nepal's parliament Wednesday elected communist lawmaker Bidhya Bhandari as the country's first female president 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 country's 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 parliamentarians.

    Scores of supporters waited for Bhandari outside parliament, applauding as she thanked lawmakers for electing her.

    "I will do my best to protect the constitution and work for the country's development and prosperity," she told reporters.

    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.

    Bhandari, who served as defence minister from 2009 to 2011, was hailed by campaigners for her strong stance in favour of increasing female representation in parliament to 33 percent.

    But she earned the anger of rights activists when she supported a provision in the new charter that bars Nepali single mothers and women married to foreigners from passing on citizenship to their children.

    "Some may say she is not the most feminist person to become president," said Guna Raj Luitel, editor of Nepali newspaper Nagarik Daily.

    "But she is a single woman in a male-dominated society who has made such progress in politics and that is quite commendable," he said.

    Bhandari's predecessor 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.

    Women in power

    Bhandari, 54, is the second woman to be elected to a senior position since the new charter, after Magar became the country's first female Speaker earlier this month.

    As required by the constitution, parliament this month also elected a new prime minister, KP Sharma Oli, who faces the tough task of unifying the earthquake-hit country as ethnic tensions flare.

    The constitution, the first drawn up by elected representatives, was meant to bolster peace and ease Nepal's transformation to a democratic republic after decades of political instability and a 10-year Maoist insurgency.

    But it has instead sparked deadly violence.

    More than 40 people have been killed in clashes between police and ethnic minority protesters, who say a new federal structure laid out in the charter will leave them under-represented in parliament.

    Work on the constitution began in 2008 after Maoist rebels laid down arms and entered politics, winning parliamentary elections and abolishing the monarchy. But power-sharing squabbles between parties stymied progress.

    Lawmakers finally reached agreement in June, spurred by the massive earthquake two months earlier that killed nearly 8,900 people and left more than half a million people homeless.

    (AFP)


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  • Japan puts military on alert for possible North Korea missile launch

    31/May/2016 // 447 Viewers

     

    TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) - Japan put its military on alert on Monday for a possible North Korean ballistic missile firing, while South Korea also said it had detected evidence of launch preparations, officials from Japan and South Korea said.

    Tension in the region has been high since North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed that with a satellite launch and test launches of various missiles.

    Japan ordered naval destroyers and Patriot anti-ballistic missile batteries to be ready to shoot down any projectile heading for the country, state broadcaster NHK said.

    A Japanese official, who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed the order. A spokesmen for Japan's defense ministry declined to comment.

    The missile tubes on a Patriot missile battery on the grounds of Japan's Ministry of Defense were elevated to a firing position.

    The South Korean defense official declined to comment on what type of missile might be launched, but South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said officials believe it would be an intermediate-range Musudan missile.

    "We've detected a sign and are tracking that. We are fully prepared," said the South Korean official, who also declined to be identified.

    A Pentagon spokesman, U.S. Navy Commander Gary Ross, said: "We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula in coordination with our regional allies. We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments."

    Ross said he would not discuss U.S. intelligence assessments. The White House declined to comment.

    North Korea tried unsuccessfully to test launch the Musudan three times in April, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.

    Japan has put its anti-ballistic missile forces on alert at least twice this year after detecting signs of launches by North Korea.

    North Korea's nuclear and missile tests this year triggered new U.N. sanctions. But it seems determined to press ahead with its weapons programs, despite the sanctions and the disapproval of its sole main ally, China.

    Last Friday, leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama, met in Japan and demanded that North Korea comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution to stop all nuclear and missile tests and refrain from provocative action.

    On the same day, North Korea threatened to retaliate against South Korea after it fired what it said were warning shots when boats from the North crossed the disputed sea border off the west coast of the Korean peninsula.

    Japan has advanced Aegis vessels in the Sea of Japan that are able to track multiple targets and are armed with SM-3 missiles designed to destroy incoming warheads in space before they re-enter the atmosphere.

    Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, designed to hit warheads near the ground, are deployed around Tokyo and other sites as a second and final line of defense.


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