UN concern as Nepal’s government formation deadline ends

August 21st, 2011 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 21 (IANS) A concerned UN sent its envoy to Nepal as the deadline for forming a new government neared its end Sunday with the two main rivals still showing no sign of an agreement.

Tamrat Samuel, director of the UN’s Asia Pacific division of Political Affairs Department, was in Kathmandu, meeting key politicians and conveying the UN’s concern that the parties were giving more importance to power-sharing than the main tasks of concluding the peace process and drafting a new constitution.

The concern comes with just 10 days left for Nepal to promulgate a new constitution, an impossible task now. The parties failed to meet two earlier deadlines due to their protracted wrangling over who would be the next prime minister.

On Sunday 5 p.m., the week-long time given by President Ram Baran Yadav to the squabbling parties to name a consensus prime minister ends.

However, though the race has now narrowed down to two contestants, neither is ready to budge, leading to fears that a new premier would not be named by the end of the day.

The Maoists, the largest party in parliament, are demanding that their deputy chief, Baburam Bhattarai, lead the new government while the second-largest party, the Nepali Congress, has fielded its nominee, former three-time prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The Nepali Congress says it will not accept a new Maoist government as long as the former guerrillas refuse to discharge their nearly 20,000-strong People’s Liberation Army and hand over its weapons.

Deuba, on the other hand, is burdened by his reputation as the man whose tenure saw the Maoist insurgency reach its zenith with the state recording the highest number of human rights violations, illegal arrests and extrajudicial killings.

Deuba also extended a draconian period of emergency and allowed ambitious king Gyanendra to manipulate the government.

If the two largest parties fail to reach an agreement by the evening, the president could either give them more time in the hope of an accord or ask the parties to choose a new prime minister through a vote in parliament.

The situation Sunday was a dismal echo of the last two years when the resignation of two earlier prime ministers saw the same infighting followed by votes to form a majority government that collapsed soon afterwards.

Since 2008, when the last election was held, Nepal has seen the fall of three governments, a record in the Himalayan state racked by protracted political instability and three pro-democracy movements since 1950.

Though the Maoists, who waged a 10-year war seeking the abolition of monarchy, signed a peace accord in 2006 when the parties agreed to promulgate a new people’s constitution written by people’s representatives, the document could not be readied by May 2010 because of the infighting.

Since then, a succession of governments amended the interim constitution to extend the deadline by 15 months more.

Now, even as the caretaker government of prime minister Jhala Nath Khanal seeks to extend the deadline yet again, the president has reminded him of a Supreme Court warning that it would be illegal.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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