Tension grows as Nepal defers PM poll

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Monday, November 15, 2010

KATHMANDU - Nepals protracted political stalemate and the failure of the parties to pick a new prime minister even after 16 rounds of vote grew more complex Monday with the 17th round of election deferred to Friday and the feud between the ruling parties and the opposition Maoists continuing.

At a plush resort in Gokarna in Kathmandu, famed for its golf course, the ruling communists, their ally, the centrist Nepali Congress (NC), and the opposition Maoist party teed off negotiations to avert yet another futile round of election after being censured by the Supreme Court and facing growing public anger.

Last week, after two lawyers brought a public interest suit against the futile election, the apex court said parliament should find a way out by either changing the poll process or electing the sole contestant left in the fray as the winner.

The suit came after parliament held 16 rounds of election since July to elect a new prime minister but failed.

Nepals unique poll procedure dictates that to win the vote, a candidate needs to get simple majority in the 601-seat house.

However, with the Maoists and the communists, two of the largest parties, abstaining from voting, it became impossible for a contestant to win 300-odd votes.

The Maoists and the communists decided to sit on the fence after they were forced to withdraw their candidates, the former due to a vote-buying scandal and the latter due to a feud within the party.

The Supreme Court has recommended that either the remaining contestant, Ram Chandra Poudel, be declared the winner or the election process be amended.

Mondays meeting ended with the three parties agreeing to defer the 17th round of vote to Friday. On the same day, they have also agreed to let the caretaker government table the budget.

The protracted stalemate was threatening to bankrupt the caretaker government that had been unable to pass the budget as the Maoists threatened to block it till the ruling parties allowed them to lead the government or reach a power-sharing agreement.

Now it remains to be seen if the Maoists will allow the full budget to be passed Friday or just a limited one to meet day-to-day expenses.

The power-sharing feud continues with the NC Monday formally asking parliament chairman Subas Nembang to recognise its contestant Poudel as the winner, saying that was the directive of the apex court.

As the larger parties remain locked in battle, the only royalist party in the house that is demanding the restoration of monarchy and Hinduism as the state religion, went on the warpath Monday.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, that had threatened to hold a protest in front of parliament Monday and storm the rostrum, clashed with police in the capital after it was forced to disperse.

Filed under: Politics

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