New Nepal PM to be sworn in Monday (Lead)

May 24th, 2009 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 24 (IANS) Nepal’s third largest party, the Communists, Sunday said their senior leader and new prime minister-elect Madhav Kumar Nepal will be administered oath of office Monday, heralding an end to a three-week-long political vacuum that had engulfed the Himalayan republic after its Maoist government fell due to a row with the army.

“We decided there should be no delay,” said Shankar Pokhrel, secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML). “The oath-taking would take place at the Rastrapati Bhawan at 11 a.m. Monday.”

Pokhrel said Nepal would be sworn in alone. The cabinet is likely to be announced later.

Earlier, the party had said the oath-taking would take place Tuesday. The delay triggered reports in the media Sunday that Nepal was following the advice of astrologers.

The UML standing committee began consultations Sunday to discuss the formation of a new government and the allocation of portfolios. It also formed a committee under party chief Jhalanath Khanal to engage the allies in dialogue over power-sharing.

It would be a tough balancing act for the new prime minister who would have to keep his own party as well as 21 others, who helped him win the prime ministerial election Saturday unopposed, happy.

After consultations with his own party leaders, the 56-year-old former deputy prime minister will also hold talks with his allies to shape the new cabinet.

Nepal’s second-largest party, the Nepali Congress (NC), that left its role as the major opposition party during the Maoist government to back Madhav Nepal, said it was mulling whether to support the new government from outside or join the communist-led cabinet.

NC chief Girija Prasad Koirala said priority would be given to consensus, cooperation and unity and the formation of an all-party steering committee to guide the new government.

Koirala has also asked the Maoists, the biggest party in the house, to join the government, an invitation that the former guerrillas rejected.

“This government is unnatural,” senior Maoist leader and lawmaker Narayan Kaji Shrestha Prakash said. “It has been formed by imperialistic and expansionist forces. We will boycott this government.”

The Maoists have also branded Nepal, who succeeds their chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, as a puppet propped up India, whom they have been growingly accusing of interfering in Nepal’s internal matters.

Nepal also faces a discordant note from his shifting ally, regional party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum. The Forum, once supporting the Maoists, left the former rebels to stand behind the communists but the move has created a rift among its own leaders.

The two factions in the Forum are now battling for better representation in the new government, which will also add to the birth pangs of the new government.

Nepal is expected to announce a small cabinet that will be gradually expanded.

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