Nepal parties seek more time to form governmentBy Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Friday, January 21, 2011
KATHMANDU - With President Ram Baran Yadav’s deadline to form an all-party government expiring Friday and the squabbling parties failing to reach an agreement, political leaders said they would seek five more days to name a new prime minister.
The three largest parties - the ruling communists, their ally Nepali Congress and the opposition Maoists - claimed after an emergency meeting Friday that they had reached a compromise: All three have agreed to take part in the new government though it was still undecided who would lead it.
A last-minute rush for consensus will now see the big three as well as 25 other parties in parliament beginning talks to thrash out an all-party government.
But before that, they will ask the smaller parties to support their request to President Yadav to extend the deadline by five more days.
It was a repetition of the situation in 2009 after the fall of the Maoist-led government when the bickering parties failed to name a consensus government within the time given by the president and sought an extension of the deadline.
The fight for power could not be resolved within the extra time as well and forced President Yadav to call prime ministerial elections so that a majority government could be formed.
But 16 rounds of polling in parliament (which constitutes the electoral college to pick the prime minister) have failed to produce any result. and now it is back to square one for Nepal with the stalemate over who should head the government continuing for nearly seven months.
Till now, each of the three largest parties has been demanding that it be allowed to lead the new government.
To add to the complexities, each party has two contenders and the intra-party tussles have taken them to the verge of vertical splits.
The crisis makes it doubtful if Nepal will be able to proclaim a new constitution by May 28, a task it should have completed last year but failed due to the political turmoil.
The most formidable barrier to the new constitution is the presence of the Maoists’ guerrilla army with its nearly 20,000 combatants.
Though the Maoists and the ruling parties had agreed five years ago to either recruit the fighters in the national army or rehabilitate them, the task is expected to start only from Saturday when the guerrillas formally dissociate themselves from the party and pass under the control of a special committee headed by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)