Kathmandu, Oct 28 ( IANS) Bidhya Devi Bhandari, vice chairman of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxists-Leninists), was on Wednesday elected president of Nepal, making her the the first woman to occupy the post in the Himalayan nation.
Bhandari defeated Kul Bahadur Gurung of the Nepali Congress 327-214 in the presidential poll that was held at the parliament complex here. Eight ballots were declared invalid with a total of 549 members voting in the 598-seat house.
Bhandari succeeds as president incumbent Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress who was elected in 2008 after the first Constituent Assembly was formed.
Parliament Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar announced the result of the day’s voting in which Bhandari received support from the ruling CPN-UML besides alliance partners United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and other parties.
“It is a historic moment for Nepal,” Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli said after Bhandari’s election.
Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal hailed her election and termed it a “historic moment” as Nepal got a female head of state and a speaker.
Bhandari’s name was proposed by Dahal and other leaders of the coalition partners.
Madhes-based political parties, which voted for Sushil Koirala during the prime ministerial election, did not participate in the presidential poll.
They have been protesting for the last two-and-half months on the Nepal-India border over the new constitution which was promulgated on September 20.
Bhandari, a feisty communist leader, came to the fore after her charismatic husband Madan Bhandari — then CPN (UML) general secretary — died in a yet unexplained road accident in 1993.
Bhandari was elected twice in parliamentary elections of 1994 and 1999, defeating the then prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and former speaker Damanath Dhungana, respectively. Bhandari, however, lost in the 2008 constituent assembly polls.
She was defence minister in the Madhav Kumar Nepal-led cabinet. The party got her elected under the proportional electoral system in the second constituent assembly elections in 2013.
She joined politics as an activist of the then Youth League of CPN (ML) from Bhojpur.
Bhandari, a cancer survivor, is considered a confidante of party chairman and Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli.