Supreme Court orders end to Nepal PM poll fiasco

Nepal`s biggest ruling party has been pulled up by country`s Supreme Court.

Last Updated: Dec 18, 2010, 15:58 PM IST

Kathmandu: As Nepal`s Parliament sits on Sunday after a month`s hiatus, the futile exercises that failed to elect a new prime minister even after 16 rounds of vote would have to end, the republic`s apex court ordered.

Nepal`s biggest ruling party, the Nepali Congress (NC), which has blocked the formation of a new government even six months after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned, has been pulled up by Nepal`s Supreme Court.

A full bench of three Supreme Court judges on Friday ruled that the centrist party`s candidate Ram Chandra Poudel can`t be declared the new premier uncontested.

The judges also said lawmakers who turn up for the prime ministerial election but abstain from voting - the reason why 16 rounds of vote have failed - cannot stay neutral.

The verdict came after the court on Friday heard a public interest litigation against the ongoing prime ministerial elections - that had become the butt of jokes - brought by lawyer Chandra Kanta Gyawali.

Elections to choose Nepal`s successor started in July but became futile after Poudel`s two rivals - Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and communist leader Jhalanath Khanal - dropped out of the race.

Prachanda had to quit after a vote-buying scandal erupted against his party and nixed his chances of winning. Khanal was pulled back by his own party after internal squabbles.

Despite their exit, the elections continued till last month as Poudel`s party took advantage of the unique provision in Nepal`s Constitution that says the contest can go on endlessly with just one candidate till he quits or manages to win simple majority in the 601-seat house.

There was no way Poudel could muster half the votes in Parliament with both the Maoists and communists sitting neutral. But his party still decided to continue with the farcical contest to block the Maoists from returning to power by forming an opportunistic alliance with the communists.

The deadlock deepened after the government prorogued parliament last month following the Maoists` bid to prevent Finance Minister Surendra Nath Pandey from tabling the budget, which led to a full-scale brawl in the house.

While caretaker PM Nepal sought to put off summoning parliament, his hand however was forced by the Maoists, who demanded a special session of parliament and got their way after other minor parties backed them.

Now with the special session scheduled from Sunday, the Maoists, communists and centrists would cross swords again for heading the new government.

Since none of them has majority, the new government will have to be an alliance once again, either between the NC and communists, like the current one, or between the communists and Maoists.

A third remote possibility is a Maoist-led government supported by the regional parties from the Terai plains as well as the fringe parties, which would be difficult to keep together.

The failure of the parties to form a new government has Nepal`s major donor countries worried, especially as the UN, that is overseeing the Maoists` guerrilla army, will exit Jan 15.

If the government is unable to demobilise nearly 20,000 Maoist soldiers before that, it is unlikely that it will be able to promulgate the new constitution by May and wrap up the four-year-long peace negotiations.

IANS