Nepal parliament fails to end standoff over PM election

Nepalese lawmakers failed to end the uncertainty over the election of a new prime minister Monday

Kathmandu: Nepalese lawmakers failed to end the uncertainty over the election of a new prime minister Monday as Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudyal, the sole candidate for the top post, failed to get anywhere near a majority in the unprecedented 15th run-off poll.

65-year-old Poudyal, who is adamant over not quitting the prime ministerial race, secured 96 votes while 2 lawmakers voted against him in the 601-member Constituent Assembly that functions as the country`s interim parliament.

Of the total129 members who were present, 29 parliamentarians remained neutral.

As per Nepal`s interim constitution, the election process should continue till a new leader is elected in the parliament through a simple majority of 301 vote. The next round of election is scheduled for November 4, according to the Parliament sources.

According to political analysts, the delay in forming a new government could derail the 2006 peace process. "There will be chaos. All the government`s plans and policies will be affected," a top expert said.

Despite a series of polls since June 30, the parliament has been unable to elect a new leader, prolonging the leadership crisis in the country. The country has been in political limbo since the June 30 resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal under intense pressure from the Maoists.

The standoff has stalled the country`s peace process and delayed the annual budget, bringing the nation on the brink of a financial crisis.

The Parliament approved an interim budget to allow the caretaker government to run day-to-day activities for four months and pay civil servants, but that expires on November 16.

The finance ministry officials have warned that the country would face a severe crisis if the budget is not passed in the next three weeks.

According to the ministry, the budget currently available in state coffers is not sufficient even for the essential services until mid-November.

Following Maoist chief Prachanda`s failure to get majority support in Parliament seven times in a row, he withdrew from the election on September 17 after a deal with the CPN-UML in a bid to facilitate the formation of a national consensus government.

Main opposition CPN-Maoist, which ended its decade-long civil war in 2006, is the single largest party with 238 seats, while Nepali Congress (NC) has 114 members in the House.

The CPN-UML, the third largest party with a strength of 109 and the Madhesi alliance with the combined strength of some 80 lawmakers and other smaller parties have called for a national government.

The Maoists, CPN-UML and the Madhesi alliance have been staying away from the election process as they want the formation of a national government.

The Nepali Congress has turned down numerous calls from the Maoists and CPN-UML to quit the `futile` election and sit for dialogue for a government of national unity.

It has asked the former rebels lay down their arms, integrate their combatants with the security forces and dissolve the paramilitary organisation of their youth wing, Young Communist League if they want to head of coalition government.

The Maoists, who won the largest number of parliamentary seats in the April 2008 elections formed a government led by Prachanda, but it collapsed in less than a year after a row over their attempt to replace the then army chief Rukmangad Katwal.