Form government within week, says Nepal president as Maoists opt out (Roundup)

Kathmandu, Jan 26: Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav Sunday called upon all political parties to form a consensual government before Feb 2 under an elected prime minister, even as the Maoists, the third largest grouping in the newly-elected Constituent Assembly, said they will remain in the opposition but will help others in drafting the constitution.

The president’s call came after the Nepali Congress — the single-largest party in the Constituent Assembly with 196 seats — elected its chief Sushil Koirala as its parliamentary party leader and thus prime ministerial nominee.

The president’s office said in a statement that in the context of the “successful elections” to the assembly and the first session being convened Sunday, there was a “need to form a government that represents the people of Nepal”.

“I call on political parties to form a consensual government before Feb 2 under the leadership of an elected prime minister,” the president said.

However, with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UPCN-Maoist) — third largest grouping in the constituent assembly — announcing it will remain in the opposition, it was now only the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) — the second largest party — which the Nepali Congress could call upon to assist in the government formation.

Addressing the first meeting of the assembly at the International Convention Centre here Sunday, Maoist party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ said his party will not be part of the government.

Prachanda, however, said his party would assist the others in drafting a new constitution.

The largest party in the 2008 elections, the Maoist party emerged as a dominant political force in Nepal but could not hold on to its premier status. In elections Nov 19 to constitute the second Constituent Assembly, the Maoists came a distant third.

“Our priority is not the government and who will be the next president of Nepal. We will sit in the opposition and will extend creative help to the Congress and CPN-UML in drafting the constitution,” Prachanda said.

He, however, warned the others not to consider them as a small party “because we are part of Nepal’s ongoing peace process and I am a signatory to that peace accord”.

“It would be a blunder if the Maoist party is treated as a minor party,” Prachanda warned.

Earlier, the Nepali Congress named Koirala as its prime ministerial candidate after a keenly fought contest.

Three leaders, Koirala, Sher Bahadur Deuba and vice president Ram Chandra Poudel were in the fray for the parliamentary party leader’s post — but Poudel dropped out after being assured by Koirala that he would be anointed acting president of the party.

Koirala, 75, is single and widely recognised as a “clean” politician in Nepal. He belongs to the Koirala clan which, akin to the Nehru-Gandhi family of India and the Bhuttos of Pakistan, has been deeply involved in the country’s democratic struggle.

If Koirala becomes prime minister, he will be the fourth from his family after Matrika Prasad Koirala (1951-52 and 1953-55), Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (1959-60) and Girija Prasad Koirala (1991-94, 1998-99, 2000-01 and 2007-08).

Immediately after the announcement, Koirala said “it is the victory of the party, all its members and democracy… not me alone”.

Though he is eligible to become the prime minister as the leader of the largest party, Koirala is yet to garner support of the CPN-UML.

Koirala Sunday said Nepal needs a consensual government to forge political understanding which will assist in the constitution-drafting process, almost 80 percent of which was completed by the first assembly elected in 2008.

CPN-UML chairman Jhalanath Khanal said Nepal needs a stable and strong government, and also demanded local elections that have not taken place in 16 years.

Top Madhesi leader Upendra Yadav, also a former deputy prime minister, gave a speech in Hindi and spoke of the achievements made during the tenure of the last constituent assembly (2008-2012).

IANS