President asks Nepal parties to choose new PM by July 7 (Lead)

July 1st, 2010 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, July 1 (IANS) Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav Thursday asked the warring parties to reach an agreement to come up with a consensual prime ministerial candidate by July 7, a gigantic task the groups may not be able to accomplish.
Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal’s resignation Wednesday has triggered a fresh race for power with the three major parties jockeying for the top job in Nepal.

The first off the mark was the opposition Maoist party, whose protracted war on the government from the floor of parliament as well as through street protests and blockades forced Nepal to announce his resignation in a televised address to the nation Wednesday.

The standing committee of the former guerrilla party called a meeting Thursday morning to discuss their strategy and ended with the decision to make a bid for the new government.

The opposition party has formed a three-member committee that has been entrusted to open consultations with the other parties and stake claim to a new government.

Headed by party chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, the committee includes Prachanda’s potential rivals in the party — his deputy and former finance minister Baburam Bhattarai and Mohan Vaidya Kiran.

However, it may not be easy for Prachanda to saunter back to the chair he was forced to vacate in May 2009 after a fight with his allies over sacking the army chief.

The other major parties are opposed to a comeback by Prachanda and a section of his own comrades have been pushing for a change in leadership after the Maoists failed to oust Madhav Kumar Nepal for almost 13 months.

“This is not the time to discuss who will be the new PM from our party,” Bhattarai said after the party meeting ended Thursday. “It has been decided that as the largest party in parliament, we should lead the new government.”

On the other hand, the Nepali Congress (NC), the second largest party in parliament after the Maoists, is keen to step into Nepal’s shoes.

The NC, whose unwavering support made Nepal weather the Maoist onslaught for over a year, has begun to say that since both the Maoists and Nepal’s communist party had a stab at running the government, the mantle should now fall on them.

There are three contenders in the party: former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, whose government saw the Maoist insurgency and human rights violations escalate, former deputy PM Ram Chandra Poudel and senior member Kul Bahadur Gurung.

Nepal’s Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) has also called a meeting of its top leaders to discuss its new strategy.

UML leader and Peace and Reconstruction Minister Rakam Chemjong Thursday claimed that his party chief Jhalanath Khanal would be the best candidate. It was Khanal’s sharp criticism of Nepal’s government that ultimately pushed the PM into quitting.

If the warring parties fail to heed the president, he will then ask them to prove their majority in parliament and stake claim to the new government.

The republic is fast running out of time.

It failed to see a new constitution last month, and though the deadline for a new statute has been extended by a year, already one month has elapsed without any progress.

It has also failed to decide the fate of over 19,000 Maoist soldiers who have been confined in UN-monitored cantonments since 2006 and are now growing restive.

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