Nepal Maoists quit government yet again

June 20th, 2008 - 11:30 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 20 (IANS) Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas Friday pulled out of the coalition government - for the second time this month - after power negotiations with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and his Nepali Congress (NC) party failed to resolve a dragging deadlock, casting a shadow over the fate of the new constitution. The seven Maoist ministers in the cabinet handed over their resignations collectively late in the evening at a meeting of the seven ruling parties even as it had seemed the warring parties were on the verge of reaching an understanding.

The seven ministers are Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Physical Planning and Works Minister Hisila Yami, Local Development Minister Dev Gurung, Forest Minister Matrika Prasad Yadav, and Women, Children and Social Welfare Minister Pampa Bhusal as well as two ministers of state Nabin B.K. and Padam Rai.

Walking out of the prime minister’s residence after the seven-party meeting failed to resolve contentious issues and Koirala refused to resign, Gurung told reporters that his party, however, would remain committed to peace negotiations and stay in the seven-party alliance.

“The election was held two months ago but the interim government is yet to pave its way for the new government by quitting,” Gurung said. “We regard this as a lack of faith towards the people and are resigning in protest.”

The resignations would be formally conveyed to the prime minister’s office, Gurung said.

The Maoist ministers had tendered their resignation last week in a bid to pressure Koirala into quitting. However, it remained a mere tactic as the letters of resignations were given to their party chief Parachanda and not the prime minister.

The unexpected move comes even as the Maoists and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), the third largest party in Nepal, reached a power-sharing agreement in the morning.

The two parties agreed that Maoist chief Prachanda would be the next prime minister while the UML candidate would be given the post of president.

Though a ceremonial post, the first president of a republican Nepal would still be a prestigious post, taking the place of deposed King Gyanendra as head of state.

But the two parties’ decision to let Koirala’s party choose the chairman of the newly elected constituent assembly did not go well with Koirala, who had been eying the presidential post.

If the post eludes Koirala, it would be the end of his political career with his own party men already asking for a change in leadership following their humiliating defeat in the election.

The Maoists’ resignation come even as the international community, including India, has been saying that as the largest party, the former guerrillas should be allowed to lead the new government.

The former insurgents have made several concessions during the negotiations. First, they agreed to relinquish the presidential post and then agreed to an amendment in the constitution so that the government can be formed or removed through simple majority in the assembly instead of the current requirement of a two-thirds majority.

The Maoists’ resignations will throw Nepal into fresh disarray.

The grave issue of merging the Maoists’ guerrilla army with the state army still remains unaddressed while Nepal is passing through an acute fuel crisis, aggravated by demonstrations by students and transport entrepreneurs.

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