Communist victory likely as Nepal holds PM pollBy Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Thursday, February 3, 2011
KATHMANDU - As Nepal’s parliament began a 17th round of election Thursday to choose a new prime minister, pre-poll developments indicated the seven-month-long crisis would finally come to an end with the opposition Maoists agreeing to support the ruling communists.
The four-way election was likely to end in victory for communist leader Jhalanath Khanal, whose Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist is the third largest in the house.
Minutes before the election started, three hours behind time, the Maoists, the largest party in the house, held an emergency meeting to decide to support Khanal.
Though a faction headed by Maoist deputy chief Baburam Bhattarai wrote a note of dissent, the former rebels, led by their chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, agreed to support Khanal to end the protracted uncertainty.
The last-minute decision, if followed by all the 237 Maoist lawmakers, would see Khanal garner simple majority in the 601-seat house with ease.
His other rivals are former deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudel, whose Nepali Congress, the second largest in parliament, had been the communists’ ally since 2009, and a last-minute contestant, deputy PM Bijay Kumar Gachhedar, who is being supported by an alliance of the Terai parties from southern Nepal and six minor parties.
Last year, Prachanda, Khanal and Poudel had been in the ring till opposition by his own party men forced Khanal to during the very first round. Prachanda remained in the fray for seven months but had to exit after a vote-buying scandal.
Poudel had fought the subsequent rounds alone, withdrawing only after the 16th round.