Sixth round of Nepal PM poll to take place SundayBy Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Saturday, September 4, 2010
KATHMANDU - As Nepal’s parliament votes Sunday, for the sixth time in two months, to elect a new prime minister, the indications are that the poll will yet again end in a fiasco with the opposition Maoist party failing to win, especially with horse-trading allegations casting a long shadow on the exercise.
Four regional parties from the Terai plains will abstain from voting, as they have in the earlier five rounds, dealing yet another blow to Maoist hopes.
Their combined support can, in fact, take Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda cross the halfway mark in the 599-member parliament Sunday and regain power.
“A party that still retains its guns and fighters can’t hope to lead the new government,” said Commerce and Supplies Minister Rajendra Mahato, whose Sadbhavana Party is a member of the Terai front.
“Till the Maoists return to democratic norms, the front will not support them. That is the common principle adopted by all four Madhes parties,” he stressed.
The Terai parties were locked in separate emergency meetings Saturday to discuss the new developments after a local television station aired an audio tape in which Maoist lawmaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara allegedly sought NRS.500 million from an unnamed Chinese “friend” to buy 50 Terai MPs for Sunday’s vote.
Though the Maoists rejected the tape as a fake, it will, however, deter even those in the Terai bloc willing to vote for the Maoists.
Mahato said if the tape was genuine, his party condemned the manoeuvring to buy votes as regrettable and going against democratic and parliamentary norms.
However, the Maoists’ allies in parliament - three fringe parties which have five MPs collectively - said they would vote for Prachanda Sunday.
“The Maoists are the largest party in parliament and NRS.500 million is peanuts for them,” said Hari Charan Shah, president of the Nepali Janata Dal that is, together with the Rastriya Janamukti Party and the Nepal Dal, supporting the Maoists.
“It is a conspiracy to discredit them and an attack on democracy,” Shah said. “We demand an investigation and a test of the tape to ascertain if it is genuinely Mahara’s voice.”
The Maoists have 236 members in parliament after the death of a lawmaker in an accident last month.
With the support of the three fringe parties, they need 59 votes more Sunday to prevail over their rival Nepali Congress party and its candidate Ram Chandra Poudel.
However, while the 81-member Terai bloc will abstain from voting, so will the ruling party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML).
The UML with its 109 MPs can help the Maoists win. However, it has stayed neutral since the first round of election in July after being forced to withdraw party chief Jhalanath Khanal from the race due to internal squabbles.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)