Nepal Maoists fail to form government (Lead)

August 8th, 2008 - 10:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 8 (IANS) Luck ran out for Nepal’s former Maoist rebels who after tasting victory in a 10-year guerrilla war and the election this year failed to win the support of the other major parties to form a new government Friday, the extended deadline for the task given to them by the president. Even after a marathon five-hour negotiation with the three other major parties, the former guerrillas failed to reach an understanding on power-sharing, deepening the protracted political crisis.

There was no immediate official statement on what would happen now.

The failure to cobble a consensus government is likely to lead to a vote in the newly -elected constituent assembly where the party that can garner simple majority can now lay claim to power.

However, the Maoists said they would hold another round of dialogue with the parties Saturday in a last-ditch attempt to hammer out an understanding.

The failure to reach an understanding Friday stems from the Maoists’ duel for power with caretaker Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and his Nepali Congress (NC) party, with both sides trying to woo the other parties to cobble a majority government.

Maoist supremo Prachanda, who is staking claim to the prime ministership after his party’s surprise victory in the constituent assembly election, this week failed to meet the Tuesday deadline given by President Ram Baran Yadav to name a new government.

Though the former guerrillas have an uneasy alliance with the other communist parties, including the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), the third-largest party in Nepal, they can’t head the new government unless they win over Koirala and his party, which is the second-largest.

The Maoist bid to form a minority government last week was scuttled due to pressure from neighbour India, which is asking for a consensus government in Nepal with the participation of all the major parties.

Consequently, the thwarted Maoists were forced to ask the president to extend the deadline till Friday, by which time they hoped to reach an understanding with the prime minister.

However, even as the extended deadline neared expiry Friday, and there was still no sign of an understanding between the two biggest parties, a senior Maoist leader predicted that his party would sit in opposition.

“There is little possibility of a Maoist-led government,” said Maoist lawmaker Mohan Vaidya.

The hardliner accused “foreign powers” and the Nepali Congress of conspiring to prevent the Maoists from coming to power.

There is growing speculation that despite his failing health, 83-year-old Koirala is keen on continuing as prime minister. The octogenarian leader has been meeting the chiefs of other political parties to assess if they would support his bid.

The two new ethnic parties from the Terai plains, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party, would prove to be a key factor in the formation of the new government.

The fourth largest bloc, they can help the Maoists obtain simple majority if the bid to form a consensus government fails and the prime minister has to be elected by the interim parliament.

If the Maoists fail to form the next government, it is likely to trigger yet another crisis with some of the former rebel leaders having warned they would launch a new protest movement.

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