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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nepali Lawmakers Pick New President, Snubbing Maoists

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- Nepal's lawmakers picked the country's first president on Monday, rejecting a candidate backed by former Maoist rebels in a move that could plunge the Himalayan nation's nascent republic into more political turmoil.

Ram Baran Yadav, an ethnic Madheshi from the centrist Nepali Congress party, won 308 out of the 590 votes cast by the constituent assembly, defeating Ramraja Prasad Singh who had the support of the Maoists, officials said.

Soon after his victory, the new president met Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, 83, his political mentor.

"This is a victory of democracy and of all Nepali people," Yadav, a doctor told reporters after the meeting.

It was the first major vote in a special assembly since lawmakers decided to abolish the 239-year-old monarchy and declare a republic, part of a peace process that ended a decade-long civil war with Maoist insurgents.

In some ways, the new president may also help stabilize Nepal. An ethnic Madheshi from the country's lowlands, Yadav's election may help unite a country torn for decades between its highland Himalayan cultures and the peoples of the plains.

But the snubbing of the Maoist candidate for the largely ceremonial position of president has created other problems.

There are now doubts that the Maoists, who are the biggest party in the assembly, will form a government with their chief, Prachanda, as prime minister.

"It is a result of an unholy alliance," Matrika Yadav, a senior Maoist leader, told reporters. "We'll not form the government. ... We'll play the role of a strong opposition and help prepare the constitution."

The assembly, elected in April, is meant to both govern the country and draw up a new constitution.