Nepal president asks parliament to elect prime minister

August 9th, 2008 - 4:50 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 9 (IANS) After Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas failed to form a consensus government within two deadlines, President Ram Baran Yadav said he would ask the interim parliament to elect a new prime minister. The presidential decision came after the Maoists, who had emerged as the largest party in the April election, could not win over the other major parties and stake claim to form the new government, failing to meet the extended Friday deadline given to them by the president.

Protracted squabbling with the other parties over power-sharing had made the Maoists miss the first deadline that expired Tuesday.

The president’s office Saturday said that after the former insurgents had apprised Yadav of their second failure to cobble a government with the participation of all the major parties, he drafted a letter to the constituent assembly, that also serves as Nepal’s interim parliament, asking the lawmakers to elect a new prime minister on the basis of simple majority.

Saturday being a holiday in Nepal, the presidential office said the letter instructing the house to hold a prime ministerial election would be delivered Sunday, setting the process in motion.

Despite a five-hour marathon dialogue between the Maoists and the three other major parties Friday, the talks broke down due to the former rebels and caretaker prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC) crossing swords over the allocation of ministerial portfolios.

The NC is demanding the defence ministry, which traditionally has been held by Nepal’s prime ministers.

“This is not a stand taken for personal gains,” NC general secretary and Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel said Saturday. “It is a stand taken for peace and democracy.”

Poudel said the NC is demanding the key ministry to ensure that there is a check and balance system in the case of a Maoist-led government, to ensure that the former guerrillas do not try to impose dictatorship.

Baulked of the chance to lead the new government, the Maoists are accusing Koirala of conspiring to become PM himself yet again.

The octogenarian leader’s meetings with the chiefs of other parties in the recent times has also triggered speculation that the NC might try to form the new government itself since it showed during the presidential poll in July that it can form an effective anti-Maoist coalition.

If an election is held in the constituent assembly to choose a new prime minister, Maoist supremo Prachanda, who had announced his intention to step into Koirala’s shoes, could face a neck-to-neck race given the recent example of the Maoist presidential candidate having to bite dust.

However, the smaller parties have been warning that any attempt to sideline the Maoists and form a new government without them is sure to affect the peace process adversely.

While a hardliner Maoist lawmaker Mohan Vaidya predicted that his party would sit in opposition, other Maoist leaders have warned to start a new though peaceful revolt if they are prevented from forming the new government.

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