Nepal Maoists brace for last fight before quitting power

May 22nd, 2009 - 3:06 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 22 (IANS) Nepal’s former Maoist guerrilla party Friday said they would run the race for a new prime minister, ending a three-week deadlock that had gripped the nation after the fall of their government and threatened to disrupt the birth of a new constitution.

Maoist Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara told the media after consultations among top party leaders Friday that his party would put up a candidate in the election to choose a successor to caretaker Maoist premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda.

Just nine months after Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly went to the polls to overwhelmingly elect Prachanda as the first prime minister of the new republic, it would undergo the same exercise again Saturday to appoint a new executive.

With 23 of the 25 parliamentary parties saying they now support a veteran communist leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal, the former chief of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) is almost certain to step into Prachanda’s shoes Saturday unless there is a major hitch.

Nepal has been assured of support by the main opposition party, former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress, as well as the powerful regional party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, which had earlier rooted for the Maoists.

Though the Maoists are the largest party in the assembly, yet, falling short of absolute majority, they are likely to lose Saturday’s race for a new PM.

Reports Friday said the former guerrillas are debating between several candidates.

They include two of their own lawmakers who defeated Nepal in last year’s election and Mahara.

The name of the Maoist candidate would be announced after Prachanda addresses the interim parliament Friday afternoon.

The man who had led a 10-year guerrilla war against the state had to call it quits after only nine months in power as his coalition allies deserted him over the sacking of the army chief, Gen Rookmangud Katawal.

To add to the Maoist humiliation, the fired army chief was reinstated by President Ram Baran Yadav.

The enraged Maoists since then have kept parliament and the formation of a new government blocked, demanding Yadav roll back his controversial decision.

To convene Friday after three weeks, the parliament session could throw up some more fireworks when Prachanda makes his farewell speech. Mahara said he would focus on his government’s achievements and the reasons for its fall.

However, it is not going to be smooth for his successor.

Nepal will have to control strong infighting in his own party as well as keep watch over the Forum, which is on the verge of a vertical split. He will also have to deal with two separate ethnic movements in the volatile Terai plains.

Nepal had a communist government in the 90s which lasted only nine months.

A new government in the country would be watched carefully by neighbour India as well.

The Maoists, who returned to peaceful politics with India’s help, are now increasingly bitter towards New Delhi, accusing it of plotting their downfall. They have already branded Nepal as a puppet in the hands of India.

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