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Madhav Kumar Nepal elected new Nepal PM

By Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
May 23, 2009 22:06 IST
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Veteran Communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal was on Saturday elected unopposed as the prime minister of Nepal, bringing to an end the nearly three-week long political crisis in the country.

The 56-year-old Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) leader, who claims to have the support of 351 lawmakers in the 601-member Constituent Assembly, was the only candidate to have filed the nomination for the top post.

The Maoists boycotted the voting process and said they will not join the new government. Caretaker premier and Maoist supremo Prachanda and Maoist number two leader Baburam Bhattarai were absent during the parliament session today.

Nepal will replace Prachanda who had resigned as premier on May 4, in the wake of differences with President Ram Baran Yadav on the issue of sacking of the army chief. Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala proposed 56-year-old Nepal's name for the post and CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal seconded it along with representatives from 22 different parties, including key Madhesi group MPRF. Speaker Subhas Nemwang declared Nepal as elected.

Nepal, whose family migrated from Bihar to Nepal more than 200 years ago, was a former deputy prime minister in a nine-month government led by Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist in 1994-95. He had led the party for 15 years, between 1993 and 2008.

Nepal, who resigned from the party post on April 12, 2008 taking moral responsibility for the electoral debacle, has now staged a comeback and that too in the top echelons of power. The man, who has been the head of the main Constitution Drafting Committee, faces a series of challenges -- taking the peace process forward, rewriting the statute and consolidating democracy in the country that abolished its 240-year monarchy last year to become a republic.

As prime minister, Nepal will also have to tackle the Maoists, who are sulking after being pushed out of power. The former rebels on Friday  ended their three-week blockade of Parliament, paving the way for the election of the new premier. Delivering his valedictory address, Prachanda had said his attempt to redefine the country's traditional ties with India and China had led to the fall of his government.

He had earlier accused India of interfering in Nepal's internal affairs, during the standoff with the army chief. Speaking in Parliament today, former premier and Nepali Congress leader Koirala asked Prachanda to cooperate with the new government in its task of writing the constitution and taking the peace process to its logical end.

"The current state of political stalemate has arrived as we failed to move ahead by forging cooperation, collaboration and unity among all parties," Koirala said.

He said the government will formulate a high-level political mechanism to steer and guide the new coalition and asked leaders of various political parties, including Prachanda, to take part in it.

Deputy leader of Maoist parliamentary party Narayankaji Shrestha 'Prakash' said his party decided to boycott the election process as its demand to rectify the move of the President to reinstate the army chief was not heeded to.

"But we will not run away from the responsibility of the peace process and drafting the new constitution," he said.

Prakash also alleged that the new government is being formed as per the "design and wishes of the colonial and expansionist forces outside the country and reactionary forces within the country".

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Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
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