Nepal braces for marathon PM race

Nepal will hold a marathon Prime Ministerial Election race on Friday.

Updated: Jul 22, 2010, 13:30 PM IST

Kathmandu: With Nepal`s Parliament refusing to elect a new Prime Minister on Wednesday - the third in less than two years - the country is now braced for a marathon election on Friday that will continue till one of the candidates succeeds in securing the required number of votes.

After Wednesday`s Prime Ministerial Election ended in a fiasco with the communist candidate withdrawing from the fray, now it will be a duel between the two largest parties as Maoist supremo and former revolutionary Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda slugs it out with Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress (NC) party.

Both came under fire from lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday with more than half the 25 parties accusing them of lusting for power at the cost of national interests and abstaining from voting.

On Friday, history could repeat itself if Members of Parliament, who hold the key to the new government, feel the two parties would not be able to rise above partisan interests and forge a national unity government.

Should neither Prachanda nor Poudel be able to cross the halfway mark in the 601-seat Parliament, the house secretariat said the exercise should be repeated till either of them won over the boycotting parties and showed at least simple majority.

On Thursday, though both sides expressed confidence that they would be able to muster majority support, it could prove to be idle bluster.

Though the Maoists are the largest party with 236 MPs of their own, on Wednesday, Prachanda could pull only six more votes from other parties.

It was an especially humiliating moment for the former revolutionary who during the prime ministerial election in the same house in 2008 had received the support of 20 parties and crossed two-third majority with 464 votes.

The Nepali Congress has only 114 MPs of its own. Poudel managed to get 10 more votes on Wednesday from two conservative parties but now needs to cajole the abstaining ones to support him.

Two parties can make or mar Friday`s election. They are the communists and the Madhesis, the bloc of four ethnic parties from the Terai.

The communists, who have 109 MPs, withdrew their nominee on Wednesday and warned they would abstain once again unless one of the contestants could prove he had the support of two-thirds of Parliament.

The Terai bloc, with its 82 lawmakers, has in the past supported both the Maoists and an NC-communist alliance.

It is difficult to prophesy which way the unpredictable communists will swing.

They have deserted both their allies, the Maoists and NC, in the past. In turn, the Maoists pledged to support them on Wednesday but dropped them at the last moment.

An unexpected blow came from 10 small parties who had in the past stood behind the Maoists. Most of them gave the thumbs-down to the former guerrillas and abstained from voting to show their displeasure with the top parties.

If Friday`s election fails to choose a new Prime Minister, Nepal would have wasted two months and be left with only 10 more to write a new Constitution.