Nepal parties get three more days to form government (Lead)

August 21st, 2011 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 21 (IANS) Echoing past history, Nepal’s warring parties failed to name a new consensual prime minister as the week-long deadline given by President Ram Baran Yadav ended at 5 p.m. Sunday, forcing the top leaders to ask for more time.

“The president, on being requested by the leaders of all the top parties, except two, has consented to extend the deadline by three days more,” said Rajendra Dahal, the president’s media adviser. “The extended deadline will now end at 5 p.m. Wednesday.”

Caretaker Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, who is also the chief of the communist party, as well as leaders from the Maoists and the Nepali Congress, the three largest parties in parliament, met the president Sunday after a last-minute meeting held during the day failed to throw up a new prime minister acceptable to all the parties.

However, now the race has narrowed down to two contestants. The Maoists, the largest party in parliament, are demanding that their deputy chief, Baburam Bhattarai, lead the new government while the Nepali Congress has fielded its nominee, former three-time prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The Nepali Congress says it will not accept a new Maoist government as long as the former guerrillas refuse to discharge their nearly 20,000-strong People’s Liberation Army and hand over its weapons.

Deuba, on the other hand, is burdened by his reputation as the man whose tenure saw the Maoist insurgency reach its zenith with the state recording the highest number of human rights violations, illegal arrests and extrajudicial killings.

Deuba also extended a draconian period of emergency and allowed ambitious king Gyanendra to manipulate the government.

If the warring parties fail to reach an agreement by Wednesday, the president is likely to call for a new prime minister through a majority vote in parliament.

The situation on Sunday was a dismal echo of the last two years when the resignation of two earlier prime ministers saw the same infighting followed by votes to form a majority government that collapsed soon afterwards.

Since 2008, when the last election was held, Nepal has seen the fall of three governments, a record in the Himalayan state racked by protracted political instability and three pro-democracy movements since 1950.

Though the Maoists, who waged a 10-year war seeking the abolition of monarchy, signed a peace accord in 2006 when the parties agreed to promulgate a new people’s constitution written by people’s representatives, the document is still not ready because of the infighting.

Meanwhile, a concerned UN sent its envoy to Nepal saying the parties were focusing on power and neglecting the key task of concluding the peace process.

Tamrat Samuel, director of the UN’s Asia Pacific division of Political Affairs Department, was in Kathmandu, meeting key politicians and conveying the UN’s concern that the parties were giving more importance to power-sharing than the main tasks of concluding the peace process and drafting a new constitution.

The concern comes with just 10 days left for Nepal to promulgate a new constitution, an impossible task now though the parties failed to meet two earlier deadlines due to their protracted wrangling over who would be the next prime minister.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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