Nepal to hold PM’s election Wednesday

Kathmandu, Jan 9 (IANS) More than six months after Nepal Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned under pressure from the opposition Maoist party, the interim parliament will Wednesday hold elections to choose his successor, after 16 rounds of polls failed to resolve the political deadlock.

As the house began its winter session Sunday, its business advisory committee advised parliament chairman Subash Nembang to hold the 17th round of election Wednesday.

However, like the previous voting exercises, Wednesday’s polls too are unlikely to come up with a new prime minister and end months of crisis though they will, however, throw up a ray of hope after a Supreme Court ruling about the polls.

The biggest party in the ruling alliance, the Nepali Congress, is the only one left in the prime ministerial fray after both the challengers – Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and communist chief Jhalanath Khanal – were compelled to pull out last year, the former due to a vote-buying scandal and the latter because of a feud within his own party.

Despite that, Nepal’s unique constitutional provision indicates that the lone contestant – former deputy PM Ram Chandra Poudel – can go on running the race endlessly until he manages to win simple majority in the 601-seat house or throws in the towel.

Though last year, Poudel’s party refused to pull him out, fearing an opportunistic alliance between the Maoists and communists, after 16 rounds of futile votes it has now agreed to scorch his candidature if the majority of the MPs vote against him Wednesday.

So far, the polls have turned into a fiasco because most of the parties abstained from voting.

However, the Supreme Court last month ruled that lawmakers cannot sit neutral and would have to vote.

If Poudel fails to garner nearly 300 votes Wednesday and exits the race, it will pave the way for a new election with new contestants.

However, given Nepal’s divisive politics, it remains to be seen if the squabbling parties can forget their differences and plump for a single candidate.

Only three days after the election, it will be time for the UN to withdraw from Nepal’s peace process. In the absence of a new government, there is deepening uncertainty about the fate of the peace process after the exit.

The greatest fears are about the nearly 20,000 Maoist guerrilla fighters, who had been under the supervision of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) with their arms.

The former rebels say they will not allow UNMIN to hand over their arms to the government.


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