Maoist government in Nepal a pipe dream after poll fiasco? (Lead)

July 21st, 2008 - 7:39 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 21 (IANS) After a 10-year war and a decisive victory in the battle of the ballot three months ago, the Maoists’ dream to lead the new government of Nepal began to recede Monday with their candidate’s defeat by an alliance of three other major parties in the presidential poll. The central committee of the Maoist party began an emergency meeting Monday afternoon to thrash out a future strategy after Ram Raja Prasad Singh, their 73-year-old former revolutionary candidate who had planned an armed revolt to overthrow the royal dynasty over two decades ago, was defeated in the presidential election run-off Monday.

Despite last-minute hectic lobbying by the Maoists, the opposition alliance of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), and the Madhesi Janadhkar Forum wrested a decisive win for its candidate Ram Baran Yadav with 10 votes more than the required simple majority.

On the eve of the crucial election, senior Maoist leader and legislator Mohan Vaidya had said that his party would sit in the opposition if it lost the presidential poll.

His warning was upheld by Maoist deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai, who said if Singh lost, the Maoists would no longer have the moral authority to lay claim to the new government.

The sentiment was repeated, as voting started, by Maoist Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation Matrika Prasad Yadav. Now it remains to be seen if the former guerrillas will put their warning into action.

If the Maoists, the largest party with 226 members in the 601-member house, sit in opposition, the onus will be on the other three to come up with a simple majority and head the new government.

The new twist is likely to delay the formation of the new government further and deepen the rift between the Maoists and the other parties.

Nepal is already running on an ad hoc budget and grappling with a severe fuel crisis in the absence of a new government. The delay has also caused the security situation to deteriorate and now could hamper the drafting of the new constitution that is expected to be completed in two years.

The presidential poll, that chose a successor to deposed king Gyanendra, would lighten the gloom of the former king now living in virtual exile.

A similar tussle for power among the parties six years ago had emboldened him to sack the then prime minister and embark on an ambitious plan to seize absolute power.

Royalists feel that if a similar situation arises, it could lead to the restoration of the monarchy in future.

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