Nepal fails to elect new PM yet again (Roundup)

August 2nd, 2010 - 11:28 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 2 (IANS) It proved third time unlucky for Nepal as parliament Monday failed to elect a new prime minister for the third time in a row, with yet another run-off in the offing, probably on Thursday.

Ignoring warnings that the house was becoming an object of ridicule at home and abroad for its continued failure to elect a new premier, the major political parties refused to bury the hatchet, resulting in Monday’s prime ministerial election ending in a fiasco yet again.

Neither Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda nor his lone rival, former deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress (NC) party, could obtain a simple majority in the 599-member parliament Monday.

Prachanda, who already had 235 MPs, needed to woo only about 70 votes from outside parties to attain a simple majority of 301 MPs. But the former revolutionary could poll only 259 votes while 114 voted against him and 208 MPs abstained. Nearly 20 MPs did not turn up to take part in Monday’s vote with its foregone conclusion.

However, the Maoist chief improved his position, getting 18 votes more than last time. With four powerful Terai parties Monday saying they had common grounds with the Maoists, Thurday’s election can find him in a better position.

The NC, once Nepal’s largest party but humbled in 2008 election, has only 114 seats of its own. It has been a tough battle for Poudel who obtained only 124 votes with 246 MPs voting against him, 186 abstaining and 43 not turning up.

Two earlier rounds of the election had also turned into a stalemate with none of the candidates able to show a majority.

The debacle is likely to force parliament chairman Subhash Nembang to announce a fourth run-off on Thursday.

As the election started more than four hours late, it was apparent the exercise would fail yet again since two of the largest parties outside the fray announced they would abstain from voting, as they had in the past.

Caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal’s Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), out of the reckoning after the first round of poll, turned vengeful following the aborted attempt and has continued to sit on the fence, refusing to vote for either side.

The UML’s 109 lawmakers could have helped the Maoists sail through Monday’s election or improve the NC’s position.

A bloc of four ethnic parties from the Terai plains, who caused the election to be delayed by over four hours, could have also made a difference in the poll results if their 82 MPs had voted.

However, like the communists, they too decided to abstain after both the Maoists and the NC rejected their demand for a single autonomous Terai state in southern Nepal and a quota for Terai people in the army.

But Terai leader and former foreign minister Upendra Yadav said they were closer to the Maoists, who had responded positively to Terai demands and an opportunistic Terai-Maoist alliance could be cobbled during Thursday’s election.

However, the Maoist leadership remained worried. A senior party member, Chandra Prakash Gajurel, said a new option would have to be explored if the deadlock was not resolved.

As per the constitution, the two contestants will have to keep slugging it out endlessly till one of them manages to attain a majority. However, the delay could cost Nepal its new constitution.

Nepal failed to get a new constitution in May due to the infighting among the parties and now, the extended deadline of May 2011 also lies in peril.

A tabloid on Monday came down heavily on the warring parties, warning them that Nepal’s parliament and the prime ministerial election had become a farce in the eye of Nepalis as well as the international community.

“If parliament can’t even give the nation a prime minister, each of the (599) MPs should declare that they have become redundant,” the Naya Patrika daily said in a scathing front-page editorial.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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