Maoists quit Nepal government

June 12th, 2008 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 12 (IANS) A day after Nepal’s last king Gyanendra left his palace for ever, the former Maoist guerrillas quit Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s government Thursday, creating a fresh political crisis. The seven Maoist ministers in the coalition cabinet submitted their resignation to party chief Prachanda after negotiations for the formation of a new government failed.

The office of Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara said Prachanda would forward the resignations to Koirala.

The seven ministers are Mahara, the information and communications minister, Hisila Yama (physical planning and works), Pampa Bhusal (women, children and social welfare), Dev Gurung (local development), Matrika Prasad Yadav (forest), Padam Rai, (minister of state for physical planning and works) and Nabin B.K. (minister of state for local development).

The new turn came after the Maoist ultimatum to Koirala to resign and pave the way for a new government expired Wednesday.

The pullout leaves the Koirala government in the lurch. After its debacle in the April election, a major partner in the alliance, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, withdrew its ministers, saying it had lost the people’s mandate.

The Maoists, who emerged as the largest party in the election, winning 220 of the 575 seats, had staked their claim to forming the new government.

However, their claim was blocked by Koirala and his Nepali Congress party who have been demanding that the octogenarian premier be given the post of president in exchange, a demand that has been shot down by the Maoists.

The former guerrillas had proposed two other options: they could lead a minority government if the other parties refused to join them or allow the other parties to form the government while they sat in opposition.

Though the election took place April 10, the deepening disputes have blocked the formation of a new government as well as giving full shape to the assembly by nominating 26 more members and thereby casting doubts about the future of the new constitution that is to be drafted in two years.

In a bid to resolve the deadlock, the Maoists, who had been claiming the posts of both prime minister and president, gave up their demand for the president’s post on the condition that the post should go to someone who was apolitical and had played a part in the pro-democracy movement.

They were also ready to show flexibility on the second contentious issue of constitution amendment.

The other parties want the statute to be changed so that the government can be sacked if a simple majority of lawmakers desires it. The present constitution demands two-third majority.

The Maoists contend the amendment would encourage horse-trading in the assembly.

Koirala on the other hand claims the amendment is necessary to rein the Maoists in should they form the next government.

He is also asking Prachanda to quit his post as supreme commander of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army, saying the head of government can’t be a gun-wielding man.

The crisis comes at a time Nepal is racked by a steep fuel price hike that has in turn led to transport becoming dearer and would hit the prices of essential commodities.

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