Nepal Maoists win battle for special parliament sessionBy Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
KATHMANDU - Failing to return to power despite keeping up pressure tactics for over a year, Nepals opposition Maoist party tasted its first triumph since the fall of its government in 2009 with their campaign for a special parliament session finally yielding fruit.
Nepals parliament, prorogued since Nov 19 after the Maoists attacked Finance Minister Surendra Pandey and tried to prevent him from tabling the budget, will now be convened for a special session from Sunday.
Lawyers advised President Ram Baran Yadav to announce the special session though caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal was against it.
The capitulation came after the Maoists started a campaign for a special session and nearly 200 of the current 599 lawmakers signed the petition.
The Maoists have called the special session in a bid to break the deadlock that has prevented the election of a new premier even almost six months after Nepal resigned.
The prime ministerial election became a farce after Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and his communist rival Jhalanath Khanal exited from the race leaving a lone contestant, Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress party.
As Nepals constitution dictates that the race will go on till the last contestant bows out or manages to win simple majority, there have been an unprecedented 16 rounds of fruitless vote with a 17th in the pipeline.
Poudels party, fearing an opportunistic alliance between the Maoists and the communists if a fresh election is called with new candidates, has refused to withdraw despite knowing the poll, in its current form, would be futile.
The impasse has been deepened by most of the major parties sitting neutral without taking part in the vote.
Now with the special session starting next week, the Maoists and communists will seek to pressure the house and government into agreeing to a new form of election.
The weak caretaker government has seen Nepals security situation plummet, inflation rise and the peace process plunge into jeopardy.
The government has failed to demobilise the guerrilla army of the Maoists with its nearly 20,000 trained fighters, a failure that could prevent the new constitution from being promulgated in May 2011.
The UN, that is overseeing the Maoist army, will withdraw from the job from Jan 15 and the exit is likely to lessen the credibility of the peace process that saw an end to a decade of Maoist uprising in 2006.