Nepal prime minister to retire after polls

March 11th, 2008 - 8:13 pm ICT by admin  

Kathmandu, March 11 (IANS) After more than 60 years in Nepal’s tumultuous politics, marked by both remaining underground and planning counterfeiting currency and hijacking choppers as well as holding the highest post in the government, six-time Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has announced his intention to retire after the April election. The octogenarian premier, who earned the reputation of making controversial remarks during his visits to his ancestral house in Biratnagar town in eastern Nepal, told journalists Tuesday that he would take “rest” from politics after the April 10 constituent assembly election, when Nepal, for the first time in its history, will go to the hustings to enable people to write a constitution reflecting their desires and aspirations.

Koirala, who had gone to Biratnagar to attend a wedding, made the comment before boarding an aircraft on his way back to the capital, a private radio station said.

The Nepal PM, who came to power in 2006 without an election after a public uprising forced King Gyanendra to step down as head of government, was earlier seen as the first president of a republican Nepal after the election.

However, the possibility became remote after the Maoists, who had earlier supported him for the post, began to campaign for their chief Prachanda as the first president of a federal republic of Nepal.

The autocratic PM has been the target of much criticism from his own coalition partners for taking major decisions unilaterally and advocating retaining a ceremonial monarch at a time there was a public demand for the abolition of monarchy.

After the end of the king’s regime, there were also allegations that the PM was trying to be king, usurping all the ceremonial and social functions of the monarch like offering worship to Hindu deities during public festivals.

The new constitution enforced in 2007 made him the most powerful man in Nepal, heading the coalition government and army and with a judiciary subservient to parliament.

Koirala, who has continued to remain the chief of his ruling Nepali Congress party though the party constitution rules out three terms in the high office, was slowed down in recent days due to bad health.

There is speculation that he would like to see his mantle fall on his daughter Sujata, whom he nominated minister without portfolio in December.

Koirala told the media that he would hand over the reins of his party to younger leaders, Kantipur Radio said.

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