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It’s Deuba once more

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017
New Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba with ex-Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Parliament elected Deuba as Nepal's 10th Prime Minister in 10 years on Tuesday. Bikram Rai

New Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba with ex-Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Parliament elected Deuba as Nepal’s 10th Prime Minister in 10 years on Tuesday. Bikram Rai

Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday became Nepal’s 10th Prime Minister in 10 years, and head of government for the fourth time in the past two decades.

Of the 558 MPs present in the House, 388 voted for Deuba while the rest voted against him. There was no rival candidate from other parties, but Parliament still conducted a voice vote.

Addressing the House before being elected, Deuba said he will focus on three issues as new Prime Minister: holding all three elections by January, amending the Constitution and boosting infrastructure.

The CPN (Maoist-Centre) that led the previous coalition with the backing of the NC had proposed Deuba as the new PM last week, but a parliamentary impasse over the Bharatpur mayoral vote-counting row delayed Deuba’s election.

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Pic: RSS

The UML had allowed Parliament to function only after Deuba gave his word to hold the second phase of local elections on 28 June, provincial and parliamentary elections before January 2018, and to wait for a probe on the Bharatpur fracas before re-conducting polls there.

Deuba also won support of the newly-formed Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) and the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSF) by signing a three-point pact with them. Deuba has promised to implement the previous deal that the NC-Maoist coalition signed with Madhesi parties, withdraw cases against those arrested during the Madhes movement and create more municipal and local councils in the Tarai.

By becoming Prime Minister again, Deuba equalled the record of his former NC colleague Girija Prasad Koirala. Only Surya Bahadur Thapa who had been PM five times is still ahead of both.

Deuba’s previous three tenures as Prime Minister were marred by the Maoist war, the royal coup of February 2005, and a stagnant economy. In his first tenure, the Maoists declared war on the state. In his second term, the war escalated and he was removed by King Gyanendra for being “incompetent”. In his third tenure, Gyanendra took over and put Deuba under house arrest for 10 months.

But Deuba has proven that politicians always live to fight another day by patiently biding his time and strengthening his hold over the party. Twelve years later, Deuba has returned to Baluwatar with the help of Prachanda, the same man who once tried to assassinate him and on whose head he had put a price.

Deuba has often been criticised for having brought about a crisis in Nepal’s democracy every time he became prime minister – either by surrendering to the royal palace, or by cancelling local elections in 2002. This time, he has a chance to prove critics wrong if he can hold the second phase of local elections, federal and parliamentary elections in the coming eight months.

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