Nepal parties riven with dissent ahead of 17th PM poll

January 12th, 2011 - 3:44 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Jan 12 (IANS) Even six months after Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal stepped down under pressure from the opposition Maoists, the republic’s major parties remain deadlocked in a worsening conflict for power, and indications are that the 17th round to elect a new premier Wednesday would not lead to an agreement.The Nepali Congress, the largest party in the ruling alliance and the only one to be contesting the prime ministerial election, was poised to go it alone once again Wednesday, refusing to pull out its candidate Ram Chandra Poudel.

Nepal’s unique election laws say the prime ministerial poll, which is held among lawmakers, can continue endlessly - even if there is just one contestant - until he manages to muster simple majority in the 601-seat house or withdraws.

Poudel’s rivals - Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and communist chief Jhalanath Khanal - were forced to exit from the race, the first due to a vote-buying scandal and the latter due to opposition by his own partymen.

Now both the Maoists and communists are urging Poudel to abandon the fruitless contest so that a new election with fresh candidates can be started.

Both have also threatened that they will vote against Poudel Wednesday if he fails to withdraw. If half the lawmakers vote against Poudel, his candidature will be cancelled.

To pre-empt that, Poudel’s party has warned the communists that they will then pull out of the ruling alliance.

However, Khanal seems ready for the challenge and his party MPs have been directed to vote against Poudel Wednesday.

If the three major parties stick to their dissenting stands, it would indicate the possibility of a new alliance, this time between the Maoists and the communists.

But with both keen to lead the new government, the new alliance could create more dissent than what they would patch up.

With India sending Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to Nepal for consultations with the parties and the government Jan 18, it remains to be seen if Nepal will be able to form a new government before that.

Also, from Jan 15, the UN will pull out from Nepal’s peace process, leaving the fate of nearly 20,000 Maoist guerrilla fighters and their over 4,000 firearms uncertain.

Though the government had formed a special committee to take over the UN’s work of monitoring the fighters and their weaponry, its authority has become uncertain after the Maoists refused to hand over their arms to the panel.

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

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