Parleys on but no sign of new government in Nepal

May 7th, 2009 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 7 (IANS) Even 72 hours after the fall of Nepal’s first Maoist government and with a deadline set by the president to name a new coalition drawing closer there was still no sign of a successor government that would be acceptable to all major parties.

The picture became just a tad clearer Thursday with the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC) of former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, announcing it would not try to lead the new government.

The NC, the second-largest party in the 601-member interim parliament with 114 lawmakers of its own, said it would be content to support a coalition headed by its former enemy, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML).

“While we are giving first preference to a consensus government, if that is not possible, we want the UML to lead and we will support it,” former NC minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said after the top leaders of the party met to decide future strategy.

For now, an understanding among the major parties seems near impossible with the Maoists, the largest party in the house with 238 members, keeping up their battle against President Ram Baran Yadav.

Yadav’s controversial decision to reinstate the army chief sacked by the Maoists led to Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s resignation Monday.

The former guerrillas are demanding that the reinstatement, which they say is unconstitutional, be revoked.

To mount pressure on the president, the women’s wing of the Maoists Thursday defied prohibitory orders to stage a noisy demonstration before the presidential office and residence.

The party has said it will not allow parliament to convene and will continue the street protests until the reinstated army chief, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, goes.

On Thursday, the Maoist politburo began reviewing the situation. However, except for a miracle, it is unlikely that the party will change its stand.

So to form a new government, the UML has no likely option right now than seek a vote.

Even with its 109 members and the NC behind it, it needs to get 79 more lawmakers to help it get simple majority in the house.

The ethnic Terai parties, who together have 83 members, would have a crucial role to play in the election.

The biggest of them, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum with 53 MPs, is said to be eyeing the executive’s post itself.

Prachanda, who faced a major embarrassment with the release of a video tape showing him as having given inflated figures about his guerrilla army to the UN, said Wednesday that he was confident the Maoists would form the government again.

However, he did not elaborate how or when.

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