Nepal president asks warring parties to form government by Friday

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Saturday, January 15, 2011

KATHMANDU - With Nepal entering a new stage in its critical peace process Sunday after the exit of the UN, President Ram Baran Yadav has asked the warring political parties to form a new government by Friday.

“All the political parties represented in the Constituent Assembly are being asked to form a national, consensus government by Jan 21,” the President’s office said in a statement.

This is the second time the head of state asked Nepal’s parties to put aside their differences and name a prime minister acceptable to all. The president made the same gesture in July 2010 after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned but the parties failed to rise to the occasion despite the president extending the deadline.

Should the parties fail once more to reach an agreement, the president will ask for a majority government, which will mean fresh elections.

Since last year, Nepal’s parliament held an unprecedented 16 rounds of election to choose a new prime minister but failed due to power-sharing disagreements. This time, should the dismal history repeat itself, Nepal faces a grave constitutional crisis in May, when it will have to promulgate a new constitution but may fail if the differences persist.

The three major parties - the communists, their ally the Nepali Congress, and the Maoists - are each demanding that they be allowed to head the next government.

Though Maoist deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai said the parties should look beyond the major groups to choose a consensus candidate, if necessary, the other leaders in his party are pressing for a Maoist-led government since it is the largest party in parliament.

As the nearly three-year-old feud continues to rage, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which had been engaged in the peace process in Nepal soon after the end of the civil war in 2006, began to pull out from Sunday after its mandate expired Saturday midnight.

Following the election in 2008, UNMIN’s main work had been to monitor the arms and combatants of the Maoists’ people’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Nepal Army.

The caretaker government managed to ink a last-minute accord with the Maoists before the pullout, agreeing that a Special Committee headed by the prime minister will take over UNMIN’s task.

The agreement averted fears of new chaos and violence after UNMIN left with the possibility of an army coup or the imposition of President’s rule.

UNMIN chief Karin Landgren hailed the accord, calling it crucial to reinforcing confidence in the peace process and hoping the parties would build on it to implement the long-awaited integration and rehabilitation of nearly 20,000 PLA fighters.

“The UN will continue to offer all the support that it can to the new monitoring mechanism,” she said.

The UN Security Council has said that it will continue to monitor the situation in Nepal for three years.

Nepal’s major western donors also welcomed the pact but warned the parties that they would have to redouble their efforts to meet the peace pact commitments.

“While there has been some progress towards implementing the various elements of the Comprehensive Peace Accord, key commitments have yet to be met,” 13 diplomatic missions in Nepal said in a joint statement.

They are Australia, Canada, Denmark, the EU, Finland, France,Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Britain and the US.

“As UNMIN departs and the deadline for completing a democratic, inclusive constitution approaches, it is all the more important to show restraint while making fresh efforts to reach consensus. We call upon all political parties to redouble their efforts and to continue to work together in the spirit of compromise to fulfil the commitments they made to each other, and to the Nepali people.”

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at

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