Nepali Times
Re-election day

Parliament has announced a re-election for the post of prime minister on Friday as both candidates, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and NC vice president Ram Chandra Poudel, failed to obtain the required majority during Wednesday's delayed election. Maoist candidate Dahal obtained 242 votes from the 592 members present in the house while 114 members voted against him and 236 abstained. NC candidate Ram Chandra Poudel received 124 votes in his favour from the 587 members present. 235 lawmakers voted against him and 228 abstained. The required number for a simple majority is 301. The UML had fielded party chairman Jhalanath Khanal on condition that he garnered a two thirds majority, or 401 seats, before the election. The meeting of the UCPN (Maoist) on Wednesday morning, too, had decided to support Khanal if he managed to secure a two thirds majority before voting. As the Madhesi alliance and other fringe parties declared they would stay neutral, this was not going to be possible, and the UML withdrew its nomination of Khanal. Since the UML has withdrawn from the race for the prime ministerial post, the Maoists and the NC will contest the second round of voting on Friday. After the election, Khanal said the UML would participate in the second round only if there is a national unity government. The Madhesi alliance still holds the key to the post of prime minister, as they have a total of 82 seats. The Maoists already have 237 seats in parliament. Winning the confidence of the Madhesi alliance will be enough for them to form a majority government. However, the NC has only 114 seats and would require the support of both the UML and the Madhesi alliance. Since the outgoing government was a coalition of 22 parties, NC will try to revive this alliance. Observers say that since the Madhesi parties have a number of former NC leaders in their ranks, they may well support the NC. Some Madhesi leaders have even said they would feel comfortable with a democratic alliance with the NC and the UML. It has been surmised that this was one of the reasons they decided to abstain from today's voting. However, the Madhesi alliance has underlined the need for a national consensus. "There is no doubt about the capability and quality of these candidates but we found them to be against consensus," TMLP leader Hridayesh Tripathi complained in parliament before voting. "We won't vote until assured that they will implement the past agreements with the Madhesis." Leaders of the major parties too reiterated the need for a national unity government. Caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Nepal claimed he had resigned despite holding a majority to pave the way for a national unity government. This explained why Khanal, who had criticised the majority government led by Nepal, was asked to garner a two-thirds majority as a condition for leading the next government. Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai admitted that the political parties had failed to deliver on their promises to write a new constitution and conclude the peace process in two years. "It all began when we opted for a majority system. But only a consensus government can take this process to a logical conclusion," he said. But a consensus government is highly unlikely, given that the failure of the parties to achieve this has already pushed them towards elections for a majority government.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)