Nepal PM to quit Saturday

August 10th, 2011 - 9:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 10 (IANS) Nepal’s six-month-old communist-led coalition government is poised to fall, with Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal informing parliament Wednesday that he would step down Saturday.

The embattled communist leader, fighting demands by the opposition for his resignation since May, when his government failed to promulgate a new constitution, told the house that he would resign Saturday as per a pledge made earlier.

In the pledge, Khanal, who has been resisting the demand for his exit, had said he would step down if he failed to take the obstructed peace process forward by Saturday.

With the peace process stuck, it seemed time was running out for the veteran leader who in February deserted his old allies to form a new government with help from the Maoist party.

Khanal, reported to be suffering from fever and diarrhoea, did not himself appear in parliament Wednesday but entrusted Deputy Prime Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari to read out his letter.

The opposition Nepali Congress party, that had been preventing parliament from convening since last month to pressure Khanal into quitting, was appeased by the letter and allowed the house to sit Wednesday.

However, even if Khanal resigns, the formation of a new government - the fifth in four years - may not be an easy task.

Though Maoist deputy chief and former finance minister Baburam Bhattarai is being projected by his followers as Nepal’s new prime minister-in-waiting, it remains to be seen if Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda will accept that.

The Nepali Congress is also saying it should be allowed to head the new government since the Maoists and the Communists have already had a go at it.

There has been an internal fight among its top leaders with former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba now trying to stake his claim over his party peer and former prime ministerial candidate Ram Chandra Poudel.

Last time, it took seven months and 17 rounds of elections for Nepal’s parliament to elect a new prime minister.

The new turmoil comes with just three weeks left for the government to unveil a new constitution.

However, it is certain that the government will fail to do so by Aug 31, even though the deadline was extended twice.

A huge question mark hangs over the validity of parliament and the government after that especially as Nepal’s Supreme Court this year ruled that the state cannot prolong the deadline eternally.

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

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