Prachanda inches towards absolute victory in Nepal PM race

August 15th, 2008 - 3:30 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 15 (IANS) After their unexpected triumph in Nepal’s general elections in April, the former Maoist guerrillas Friday began preparations to take up the reins of the new government with their chief Prachanda inching towards absolute victory in the prime ministerial race. The 54-year-old, who carried a price tag on his head during the 10-year savage “People’s War” fought by his underground party, looked set to win a two-third majority in the contest that had dwindled into a duel with outgoing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress party.

As the country’s first constituent assembly readied to hold the new republic’s first prime ministerial election, the race had narrowed down between Prachanda and the Nepali Congress candidate, former premier Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was twice sacked by deposed king Gyanendra for “incompetence” and failure to hold elections.

Deuba’s tenure saw the imposition of emergency, a free hand given to the army to suppress the Maoist movement and mounting human rights violations.

Now the former rebels are poised for sweet revenge, with Prachanda already assured of the support of two of the five largest parties in parliament, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF). This is certain to see him through.

In the current 596-member assembly, the winner needs a simple majority or 299 votes.

The Maoists, the biggest party in the house, have 227 seats. In addition, a poll pact forged Thursday has ensured it the votes of the UML, which has 108 MPs, and the MJF with 52.

A minor Left party - the People’s Front with eight MPs - has also pledged support for Prachanda.

On Friday, ahead of the election, one of the oldest parties of Nepal that had traditionally been the supporter of the king said it would vote for Prachanda. Parashuram Khapung, spokesman of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, said its eight MPs have been asked to support the Maoists.

As the fifth largest party, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party with 12 votes, began consultations, the chances were that it too would support the Maoist chief. In addition, 13 fringe parties have expressed support for a Maoist-led government.

Prachanda has promised that his party would try to reach a power-sharing arrangement with the supporting parties by Friday.

Deuba’s party, on the other hand, has just 116 MPs. It is doubtful how many other parties would vote for him.

Even the only royalist party in the house, the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (Nepal) with four Mps, has said the Maoists should be allowed to lead the new government.

With the election, Nepal would finally see an end to four months’ instability and the formation of a new government.

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