Dozens arrested in Nepal pre-election strike crackdown

KATHMANDU - Police in Nepal arrested dozens of protestors Monday in a crackdown on a nationwide strike called by hardline Maoists seeking to postpone next week's parliamentary elections.

Protestors belonging to a 33-party alliance headed by the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) torched a dozen vehicles across the country while enforcing the shutdown, police spokesman Ganesh K.C. told AFP.

"We arrested 45 protesters including 34 in Kathmandu... they attacked four vehicles in the capital early morning today," he said.

Party supporters also set on fire two parked passenger buses in northeastern Dolakha district and vandalised two pick up trucks, including one carrying chickens, in eastern Nepal, he added.

The CPN-M, a radical faction that split from the Maoist party last year, is boycotting the November 19 vote, which is the second national election in the country since a ten-year civil war ended in 2006.

The CPN-M, which says the elections are unconstitutional, have called for an eight-day block on motorised transportation beginning Tuesday.

The group has previously disrupted the distribution of election material and set several candidates' vehicles on fire.

The United Nations last week urged the hardliners to respect people's right to vote and not to intimidate voters through violence.

More than 100 parties, including three major ones -- the Unified Marxist-Leninist, the Nepali Congress and the Maoists -- are fielding candidates for the 240-seat parliament, which is also expected to act as a constitution-drafting body.