Communists mull quitting government after Nepal poll rout

April 13th, 2008 - 6:02 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 13 (IANS) Routed from the capital and smarting under a humiliating defeat in the historic constituent assembly election, Nepal’s largest communist party Sunday began mulling quitting the coalition government, saying it had lost the rationale to remain in power. The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), which once led the government in the 1990s and was the second largest party in parliament before the Maoist guerrillas ended their armed revolt and joined mainstream politics, faced its worst defeat ever in Thursday’s election, with most of their top leaders losing.

By Sunday afternoon, though the UML had clawed back to second position after the Maoists, it had won only 15 of the 90 seats for which the results were declared, the Maoists having swept 49.

Though two other Left parties, the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party and the Jana Morcha Nepal, captured three more seats, taking their total tally of 18 ahead of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress, once the biggest party in parliament, the communist’s loss was all the more crushing with the defeat of its top leaders.

UML chief and former deputy prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal lost in both constituencies he contested from, and all UML ministers in the Koirala cabinet either lost or were flagging behind.

A chastened Nepal Sunday officially announced his resignation as chief of the routed party.

Holding the first press conference since the elections began, Nepal also said there was no rationale in his party remaining in the coalition government.

Though Maoist chief Prachanda has been trying to allay fears about a Maoist landslide victory, saying his party would continue to work with the coalition government till a new constitution is written, there is apprehension that he would come under pressure from his own party cadre to form a new government, especially if the former rebels capture absolute majority.

The standing committee of the UML said it would meet later Sunday to decide if it would quit the coalition government.

It the UML exits from the government, it is likely to trigger a Nepali Congress’ pullout as well.

The communists’ defeat is seen as due to people’s anger with their vacillation and jockeying for power.

They joined the government following King Gyanendra’s sacking of the elected prime minister in 2002 and Nepal lobbied for the post of premier.

After they left the government to join the Nepali Congress-led protests against the king’s interference, the communists often attacked their own allies and criticised government decisions while being part of the ruling coalition.

Last year, they sided with the Maoists to bring pressure on Koirala into abolishing monarchy but failed to cement the alliance during the polls when miscalculation made them spurn the Maoists and decide to fight the polls on their own.

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