Kathmandu: An end to the over six months long deadlock in Nepal appeared to be in sight as Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala on Wednesday said that Nepali Congress will withdraw RC Poudyal, the sole candidate in the 17th run-off poll for a new prime minister.
"Nepali Congress should be prepared to join government under the leadership of other parties if it is not possible to form a new government under its leadership," Koirala said.
Myrepublica, the website of Republica newspaper, quoted the Foreign Minister as saying that Nepali Congress would withdraw its prime ministerial candidate before the 17th round of voting in Parliament today.
Koirala, who is also member of the powerful Central Working Committee (CWC), said Nepali Congress should withdraw its candidacy for "consensus" and "cooperation" with other parties.
Media reports quoting an influential CWC member of the Nepali Congress said the party had decided to withdraw Poudyal as it had failed to convince its key coalition partner CPN-UML to support its candidate.
Koirala, however, ruled out the possibility of Maoist-led government unless the latter gives up its arms and integrates its paramilitary armed cadres housed in different UN-monitored camps in the country.
"The CPN-UML should not ruin the government [by giving leadership to the Maoist now]," she added.
Nepali Congress, the second largest party in the 601-member Constituent Assembly, is holding an office-bearer`s meeting today afternoon to discuss the political situation.
In a series of run-off polls since June 30, the main opposition UCPN (Maoist) and CPN (UML) lawmakers have chosen not to vote for a prime minister while Madhesi parties opted to stay neutral.
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 parties with the combined strength of some 80 lawmakers and other smaller outfits have called for a national government.
Speaking at a function at the Reporters` Club Nepal in the capital, Koirala said the new government should be formed under Nepali Congress leadership to ensure successful conclusion of peace process and promulgation of new Constitution.
As far prime ministerial candidate is concerned, Koirala said, there is no difference in the party. "It is not important who becomes prime minister,” she
said, adding that there are many competent leaders within the party.
According to reports in the media, the caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Nepal had advised the Nepali Congress leadership to withdraw Poudyal so as to firm up a fresh coalition of the two parties.
The ongoing futile election for a new prime minister will be automatically come to an end if Poudyal withdraws as he is the only candidate for the top post, nepalnews online said. Parliament Speaker Subash Nemwang was quoted as saying that the run-off poll will end with the 17th round of voting.
Poudyal, who has refused to quit the prime ministerial race, has failed to secure a majority in 16 rounds of run-off polls in the Assembly, which functions as the country`s interim Parliament.
Last month, the Supreme Court had ruled that no lawmaker who is present in Parliament can remain neutral or choose to abstain.
The crucial 17th run-off poll for the prime minister comes amid speculation that the Maoists may embark on a `people`s revolt` and capture power as the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which has been tasked to monitor the peace process since 2007, prepares to wrap up its mission on Saturday.
The deadlock in Nepal`s peace process has sparked concern among the international community as UN peace mission prepares to pull out its staff by Janaury 15.
Karin Landgren, the chief of the UNMIN, had sparked a controversy last week after she spoke about fears of the Maoists going for another revolt and the President stepping in for a presidential rule.
Both Maoist chief Prachanda and President Ram Baran Yadav have, however, denied the speculations, saying that there was no such possibility.
The Nepal Maoists, who ended their decade-long civil war in 2006, have claimed the leadership of new government as it is largest party in Parliament with nearly 40 percent of the seats.
The Maoists, whose government under Prachanda in 2008 collapsed as a result of a dispute with the country`s President, has accused the mainstream parties of trying to isolate the former rebels so that they cannot lead another coalition.
The key alliance partners in the caretaker government, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, have ruled out the possibility of forming the next government under the Maoists` leadership as the former rebels have not yet laid down arms, integrated their combatants with the security forces and dissolved their paramilitary youth wing, Young Communist League.