This has been an especially tumultuous year for the South Asian country of Nepal. Most notably in the news was last April’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which affected roughly 35,000 people, but the country’s issues didn’t begin or end there.
Since last month, the country has also been undergoing great political upheaval, following its decision to adopt a new constitution. Under this constitution, the Nepalese Parliament is required to elect a woman to the office of president or vice president and to reserve one-third of parliamentary seats for women. In keeping with that requirement, the country elected its first female president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, yesterday.
A member of the Unified Marxist-Leninist Communist party (that’s only a name, by the way), Bhandari is only the country’s second president — it was previously ruled by a monarch — and already has her work set out for her. Not only will she be tasked with handling the aftermath of the earthquake, but she must convince the country’s women and minorities that she is really and truly on their side.
According to The Nepali Times, Bhandari has been accused of justifying and glossing over patriarchal discrimination since she became involved in political life in 1993 following the sudden death of her husband. Bhandari decided to run for Parliament in his place and ever since has said that the rights of minorities and women are of the utmost important to her.
But as the New York Times points out, her sway in Nepalese politics remains to be seen: The role of president in Nepal is largely ceremonial with more power going to the nation’s prime minister, Khadga Prasad Oli. So, it will be up to President-elect Bhandari to redefine the role. We look forward to seeing what she does with it.
[Images via Twitter]