(TibetanReview.net, Dec27’22) – Nepal has a new prime minister. But he is not the leader of Nepali Congress Party which won the highest number of parliament seats and which, with its alliance partners, was just six seats short of a majority. Thanks to China’s success in breaking the Nepali Congress-led five-party alliance which fought the election together, the new prime minister is Maoist Centre leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias “Prachanda”, an alliance partner with it in the election and in the outgoing government, although his party came a distant third in the November election.
The Maoist Centre had won just 32 seats, as against 89 by Congress and 78 by its new alliance partner United Marxist Leninist (UML).
Because Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba justifiably insisted on becoming the prime minister for the first half of the government’s five-year term, an equally adamant Prachanda, already reported to be under strong pressure from China not to give up his claim, walked over to the strongly pro-China UML. And he clinched a previously held-out deal to claim the position Deuba would not yield to him. The new, post-election coalition was joined by five other parties and three independents to give it a comfortable majority.
China thereby not only finally succeeded in bringing the two big communist parties of Nepal together but also in consolidating central and provincial government powers in their hands.
And so, even before the President appointed Dahal as Prime Minster, the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu tweeted twice – in English and Nepali – to congratulate him, noted the english.onlinekhabar.com Dec 26.
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Dahal had earlier vowed not to leave the alliance both before and after the elections.
But following hectic efforts by China, which reportedly did not want him to concede the prime ministership, and Deuba’s stubbornness, the Nepali Congress Party has been left high and dry. The party not only lost the prime ministership but also the state presidentship – for which the parliamentary election will be held soon – the speakership of the House of Representatives, and the majority of the chief ministerships in the country’s seven provinces, according to Nepali media reports.
Until Sunday (Dec 25) afternoon, a Nepali Congress-led coalition led by Deuba was the favourite to form the next federal government, noted the kathmandupost.com Dec 26.
“Until the last hour, the UML was not getting anything but now it will have the President and Speaker from the party, apart from the chief ministers of at least four provinces. It is a political triumph for Oli,” the report quoted Jhalak Subedi, an analyst of left politics, as saying, referring to UML chief KP Sharma Oli who had long been urging Dahal to crossover.
On Sunday, a meeting of the UML, the Maoist Centre, the Rastriya Swatantra Party, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, the Janamat Party, the Janata Samajbadi Party and the Nagarik Unmukti Party reached an agreement to make the Maoist Centre chair Dahal prime minister for the first half of the five-year term of the new parliament, the report said.
These coalition partners together account for a majority of 169 seats (as against the minimum requirement of 138) in the 275-member House of Representatives.
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Prachanda, 68, the former anti-monarch guerilla leader, took his oath of office on Dec 26 afternoon, after proving his majority support by the deadline of Dec 25 evening set by President Bidya Devi Bhandari. He now has to win a vote of trust from the lower house within 30 days. This is his third stint as prime minister.
For the Congress party, it was a bit of a shock, despite knowing what Dahal and China were up to.
“Everything was under the (Congress-led) alliance’s control, but something dramatic happened, all of a sudden,” Gynandra Bahadur Karki, a Congress leader close to Deuba, has said.
“Forging an electoral alliance with one party and allying with another in the post-election period is a serious breach of coalition culture,” NP Saud, another leader close to Deuba, has said.
“Though Oli has said the UML will claim President and Speaker, there has been no agreement among the parties in the new alliance,” Dev Prasad Gurung, general secretary of the Maoist Centre, has said.
He has also said, “We had no option other than to join hands with the UML after Deuba refused to budge.”
The two communist parties had previously splintered in bitterness, barely a year ago, after their China-brokered united communist party government did not last despite hectic efforts from Beijing. The only difference this time is that Dahal is the Prime Minister while Oli will presumably get his turn after two and half years, if the coalition lasts that long.
Nepal has seen 10 government changes since 2008 when the 239-year-old monarchy was abolished, noted the edition.cnn.com Dec 26.