Prachanda poised to be Nepal’s 1st Maoist PM

August 14th, 2008 - 6:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 14 (IANS) Four months after their stunning victory in a national election, Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas are now poised to rule the former Himalayan kingdom in place of the Shah kings with their supremo Prachanda poised to sweep Friday’s prime ministerial poll. The 54-year-old, who won the April election from two constituencies, is now expected to win the prime ministerial election overwhelmingly with two of the four largest parties in the interim parliament pledging to support him.

After months of negotiations and a humbling defeat during last month’s presidential election, Prachanda is now set to turn the tables on his arch-rival caretaker Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the latter’s Nepali Congress (NC) party.

On Thursday, the Maoists signed a seven-point agreement with the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), the third-largest party in the house, and the ethnic Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), the fourth-largest.

Minutes before 5 p.m., when the deadline for filing nominations for the election expired, Prachanda’s name was proposed by UML chief Jhalanath Khanal and seconded by MJF leader Upendra Yadav.

With the two parties behind them, the Maoists, the largest party in the constituent assembly, are bound to inflict a crushing defeat on the NC candidate unless a last-minute earthquake occurs.

In a surprise move, the prime minister’s outmanoeuvred party Thursday nominated as its candidate former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Deuba was sacked by King Gyanendra in October 2002 for failing to hold general elections but re-appointed by the king in 2004 only to be humiliated further with a second sacking and imprisonment on the charge of corruption.

Deuba, once Koirala’s protégé, turned against his mentor and was expelled from the party.

In revenge, he split the party and founded his Nepali Congress (Democratic) party.

Though the two factions merged before the April election, they proved to be powerless against the Maoist juggernaut.

With Deuba being picked to fight a forlorn battle and Koirala readying to exit the prime ministerial residence after the election, the mantle of NC leadership could be passing to the younger politician from the 83-year-old and ailing Koirala.

Prachanda also has the support of 13 minor parties.

His win will put a Maoist on the top job for the first time in Nepal’s history.

The Maoists had left mainstream politics to wage a civil war for 10 years from 1996 but returned to parliament in 2006 after joining forces with the parties to oppose King Gyanendra’s regime.

The whirligig of time has brought the star of the once all-powerful Shah dynasty at its nadir with the king stripped of his title and banished to a lesser palace from which he is expected to be ousted again following the coming to power of a Maoist government.

On the other hand, the former guerrillas, who at one time were hunted down by the army with their top leaders including Prachanda carrying a price on their heads, have seen their star rise, arriving on the threshold of forming the first Maoist government in the country.

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