Nepal to elect new PM on July 21

July 13th, 2010 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Sushil Kumar By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 13 (IANS) The race for the new prime minister of Nepal kicked off Tuesday with parliamentarians fixing July 21 as the election date after the parties failed to forget old rivalries and choose a candidate acceptable to all.

Nepal’s Law Minister Prem Bahadur Singh announced the election date after the Business Advisory Committee of parliament met to decide the procedure.

Nominations for the top job can be filed till July 20, which means the nation will be kept on tenterhooks till the last minute.

This is the third time in less than two years that the Himalayan republic has been forced to have a prime ministerial election after two governments fell in quick succession.

Nepal’s first Maoist government that came to power after a historic election in 2008 promised good governance, justice and a new constitution by, for and of the people.

However, the former guerrillas fell out with their allies after refusing to dismantle their parallel army and collapsed just after none months.

The succeeding communist-led government lasted for 13 months despite stiff opposition by the Maoists, which included a six-day general strike and blockade of parliament for over five months.

Besides the obstruction, the new government’s image was badly tarnished after its ministers became mired in corruption charges, law and order deteriorated and Nepal’s food bowl - the Terai plains in the south - became a hotbed of crime and violence.

But though Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned on June 30, the Maoists have not been able to form a new government for lack of majority.

Now the second largest party in parliament after the Maoists, the Nepali Congress (NC), is eyeing the top job.

NC acting chief Sushil Kumar Koirala has said he was throwing his weight behind the leader of the NC parliamentary party, Ram Chandra Poudel. Poudel is also a former home minister and deputy prime minister.

But despite the endorsement, Poudel faces stiff competition.

Two of his own party peers say they have a greater claim to the post, including former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, while the communists have two contenders.

The Maoists are not ready to let go either and in the remaining days are likely to try split the communists to win majority support.

While the tussle increases, the Terai parties are waiting in the wings, looking for an opportunity to join the fray.

An elected prime minister is no guarantee that the power struggle will not erupt once more.

Also, he will begin with a severe handicap.

Two months ago, Nepal survived an unprecedented crisis by extending the deadline for writing a new constitution.

Though parliament finally allowed the government to complete the task in 12 more months, already two would have gone by the time the new prime minister is sworn in.

He will face the herculean task of carrying the warring parties together with him, addressing the grave issue of what to do with the nearly 20,000-strong Maoist army and promulgating the much-awaited constitution in just 10 months.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at

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