Nepal’s first presidential poll July 19

July 15th, 2008 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 15 (IANS) Nepal will hold its first ever presidential polls Saturday to find a successor to deposed king Gyanendra, who was the earlier head of state. The parliamentary committee entrusted with the election Tuesday fixed July 19 as the historic date. Though the exercise was to have taken place by Wednesday, due to the continued squabbling among the major parties over the post, it was deferred to Saturday.

The delay will, in turn, put off the formation of a new government under the Maoists. The new government was expected to be announced by this week.

On Sunday, Nepal’s political parties amended the constitution to create the post of president as the ceremonial head of state.

With the three biggest parties - the Maoists, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) - fighting over the post, Nepal’s first president could not be chosen by consensus but would have to be elected by simple majority in the constituent assembly.

Earlier, the Maoists were rooting for an executive president and demanding the post for their chief Prachanda. But the demand was rejected by other parties, forcing the Maoists to agree on a ceremonial president.

Then Koirala’s party demanded the post for their leader, which in turn was rejected by the Maoists on the ground that the 83-year-old was too old and ailing.

With the Maoists to name the new prime minister, the post of republic Nepal’s first president is now likely to go to the UML, as the price for its support. However, the UML wants the post for its previous chief, Madhav Kumar Nepal, who lost the April election from both his constituencies.

The demand goes against the Maoist declaration earlier that the president, being merely ceremonial, should be a non-political person. He or she should be a member of civil society with contribution to Nepal’s pro-democracy movements.

The former guerrillas had in the past supported a former revolutionary, Ram Raja Prasad Singh, who led a series of bomb attacks on parliament and the palace during the reign of Gyanendra’s father Mahendra. However, with politics making strange bed fellows, the Maoists have now gone silent on their demand.

Nepal’s makeshift budget Monday fixed a yearly salary of Nepali Rs.2.5 million ($40,000) for the president while the current foreign affairs ministry office, a former palace, will be transformed into the presidential residence.

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