Kathmandu: Bidhya Devi Bhandari, vice chairman of the ruling CPN-UML, was on Wednesday elected president of Nepal, making her the first woman to occupy the vaunted post. The 53-year-old widow of popular communist leader Madan Bhandari secured 327 votes to defeat Nepali Congress candidate Kul Bahadur Gurung, who secured 214 votes, by a margin of 113 votes.
“I congratulate newly elected President Bidhya Bhandari and offer my best wishes for a successful tenure,” Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar announced in parliament after the counting of votes. A communist with over three decades of political experience since her student days, Bhandari had withdrawn from active politics after getting married to CPN-UML general secretary Madan Bhandari.
She returned to the political mainstream after the death of her husband in a motor vehicle accident in 1993. Bhandari has held several important ministerial portfolios in the past. The newly elected President is a close associate of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli, who is also the chairman of CPN-UML, and her name to the top post was suggested by him.
Her candidature was supported by 14 parties represented in parliament including coalition partners Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Democratic.