Nepal PM poll to see three-cornered fight again

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

KATHMANDU - As Nepals parliament goes to election Thursday to choose a new prime minister, the stage is set for a three-cornered fight once again with the same politicians who had fought for seven months last year.

Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda rode roughshod over the murmured dissent in his own party to stake his claim once again, ignoring last years debacle when a vote-buying scandal forced him to exit from the race after fighting for seven fruitless rounds.

His rivals are the same men who sparred with him last year.

The ruling communists, despite a feud within themselves, Wednesday formally proposed the name of party chief Jhalanath Khanal as their candidate.

Khanal had to throw in the towel soon after the elections started last year due to the infighting in his own party but took revenge by ordering his MPs to abstain from voting in the subsequent rounds.

He was recently slapped in public by a protestor who blamed politicians like him for the protracted crisis that threatens to derail the new constitution and peace process.

The third contestant is former deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudel who fought 16 rounds of election last year from the Nepali Congress party without being able to win majority support.

Though Poudels nomination this time was opposed by another leader from his own party, former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, the latters bid was nipped by party chief Sushil Koirala. On the eve of the nominations, Koirala inducted nine loyalists to the decision-making central committee of the party and when the nominations were put to vote Wednesday, his men backed Poudel to the hilt.

The reappearance of the old rivals means the start of another complicated number game Thursday.

The Maoists, the largest party in parliament with 237 votes, needs the support of the communists or Nepali Congress or the three major Terai parties from southern Nepal to reach the magic figure of 300.

The Terai parties deserted Prachanda last year after a leaked audio tape revealed the Maoists as seeking millions of rupees to buy the votes of their MPs.

The absence of any substantial poll alliance indicates Thursdays vote - the 17th in seven months - is also likely to be fruitless.

In that case, parliament will hold two more rounds of vote Saturday and Sunday.

If the weekend races fail as well, the nominations will become automatically cancelled and fresh nominations will begin.

Nepal has been under a caretaker government since Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned in June.

The protracted crisis has prevented the parties from coming up with a plan for the rehabilitation of nearly 20,000 Maoist soldiers though the troops were formally handed over to the state Jan 22.

As long as the guerrilla cantonments remain, there is fear that Nepal will not be able to promulgate a new constitution within the deadline - May 28, 2011.

Filed under: Politics

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