Nepal yet again fails to elect new PM (Night Lead)

August 2nd, 2010 - 10:50 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 2 (IANS) It proved third time unlucky for Nepal as parliament Monday failed to elect a new prime minister for the third time in a row, with yet another run-off announced on Thursday.

Ignoring warnings that the house was becoming an object of ridicule at home and abroad for its continued failure to elect a new premier, the major political parties refused to bury the hatchet, resulting in Monday’s prime ministerial election ending in a fiasco yet again.

Neither Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda nor his lone rival, former deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress (NC), could obtain simple majority in the 599-member parliament Monday.

Alarmed by signs that parliament would fail to elect a successor to caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal more than a month after his resignation, the chairman of the house, Subhash Nembang, called an emergency meeting with the chief whips of the three major parties - the Maoists, Nepali Congress (NC) and communists - to decide on a fresh date for a fourth round of election.

Prachanda, who already had 235 MPs, needed to woo only about 70 votes from outside parties to attain a simple majority of 301 MPs. However, the former revolutionary could poll only 259 votes while 114 voted against him and 208 MPs abstained. Nearly 20 MPs did not turn up to take part in Monday’s vote with its foregone conclusion.

The Maoists, who led a short-lived government for eight months, had an edge over the NC by virtue of being the largest party in parliament.

Once a banned underground party, they had won 237 seats in the election two years ago that saw them come to power for the first time. For Monday’s poll, they had been assured of the support of a minor communist party, the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party that has five MPs.

The NC, once Nepal’s largest party but humbled in the 2008 election, has only 114 seats of its own and is facing a tough struggle to form a government.

Two earlier rounds of the election turned into a stalemate after the caretaker prime minister’s party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), turned vengeful following an aborted attempt to take part in it. Enmity within the party and bitter rivalry with the Maoists and NC has made the UML now sit on the fence, refusing to vote for either side.

The UML has 109 votes and while its support can make the Maoists sail through, the NC will still fall short of simple majority and needs to woo more parties.

The Terai parties together command over 80 votes and if they back the Maoists, Prachanda would be able to make a triumphant comeback. But if they support the NC, the stalemate will continue unless the NC can win the communists over as well.

The Terai parties are trying to extract their pound of flesh, demanding a single autonomous Terai state in southern Nepal and a quota for Terai people in the army. Both the Maoists and NC have rejected these pre-conditions.

The Maoists, despite the past failure to win a simple majority, had claimed Prachanda was likely to garner majority in Monday’s poll. But despite the boast, the party leadership remained worried. Another senior leader, Chandra Prakash Gajurel, said a new option would have to be explored if the deadlock was not resolved Monday.

As per the constitution, the two contestants will have to keep slugging it out endlessly till one of them manages to attain majority. However, the delay could cost Nepal its new constitution.

The restive republic failed to get a new constitution in May due to the infighting among the parties and now, the extended deadline of May 2011 also lies in peril.

A tabloid Monday came down heavily on the warring parties, warning them that Nepal’s parliament and the prime ministerial election had become a farce in the eye of Nepalis as well as the international community.

“If parliament can’t even give the nation a prime minister, each of the (599) MPs should declare that they have become redundant,” the Naya Patrika daily said in a scathing front-page editorial.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at

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