Nepal parties intensify negotiations to reach last-minute deal to form new govt

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Kathmandu, May 13 (PTI) Amid factional feuds, Nepal's political parties on Thursday intensified negotiations to reach a last-minute deal over the formation of a new government as the deadline set by the President to submit the name of the majority Prime Minister inched closer.

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari has asked the Opposition parties to come up with the support of majority lawmakers to form a new government by 9 PM Thursday after Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli lost a crucial trust vote on Monday.

The political stalemate in Nepal comes at a time when the country is experiencing its worst COVID-19 surge with acute shortages of health facilities and oxygen for patients.

Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-Maoist Centre chairman Pushpakamal Dahal 'Prachanda' held a meeting on Thursday at the former's residence at Budhanilkantha in the outskirts of Kathmandu to discuss the formation of the new government.

Similarly, Prime Minister and chairman of ruling CPN-UML K P Sharma Oli and dissident leader of the party Madhav Kumar Nepal held a meeting in an attempt to make the last effort to patch up their differences.

After Prime Minister Oli withdrew action taken against four dissident leaders, including Madhav Nepal, for working against the party, 28 lawmakers close to the dissident leader withdrew their decision to resign en masse from the House of Representatives, that would pave way for Deuba to stake a claim for the prime minister's post.

Political observers familiar with the latest developments, say chances of Deuba claiming the prime ministership with the majority support by Thursday night deadline is very dim.

Even if he submits the claim with the support of three political parties, Nepali Congress, CPN-Maoist Centre and Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP), its legality will be questioned as Mahanta Thakur faction of the JSP is likely to oppose the move.

Although Prachanda has extended support to Deuba for the post of Prime Minister, he cannot claim the premiership without the support of undivided JSP.

A source close to JSP said that out of 32 lawmakers of the party, Thakur has command over 17.

Earlier, Baburam Bhattarai, a senior leader of JSP-N, said all parties needed to form a new national coalition government and hold elections in one year.

Bhattarai said such a government should not be led by a former prime minister or the current prime minister.

Bhattarai said such a government should be run based on a common minimum programme, should resolve the COVID crisis, and ensure economic relief packages, constitution amendment, and truth and reconciliation.

Given the parties’ strengths and particularly the factional feuds in the CPN-UML and the Janata Samajbadi, many say the current numbers game is just a futile exercise and that the country, which has had eight different governments in a decade, would sooner or later head towards early polls, the Kathmandu Post reported.

After Oli lost the trust vote, the NC, the CPN -MC and the faction of the JSP led by Yadav urged President Bhandari to invoke Article 76 (2) of the Constitution to pave the way for the formation of a new government.

It says in cases where no party has a clear majority in the House, the President shall appoint as the prime minister a member of the House who can command the majority with the support of two or more parties in the lower house of Parliament.

If two or more political parties failed to give a majority Prime Minister by Thursday evening then the President will invite parties to submit the name of a minority Prime Minister from the largest party as per Article 76 sub-clause 3 of the Constitution.

In that case, Oli, whose party has 121 seats in Parliament, may again claim stake as the new prime minister.

If Oli is appointed under the Constitution, he also needs to win the vote of confidence within 30 days from the date of the appointment.

Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

Oli's move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival 'Prachanda'.

In February, the apex court reinstated the dissolved House, in a setback to Oli who was preparing for snap polls.

Known for his pro-China stance, Oli had earlier served as the country's prime minister from October 11, 2015 to August 3, 2016 during which Kathmandu's ties with New Delhi had strained.

Oli said in Parliament on Monday that it was “unfortunate” that a government that “tirelessly worked for the country’s development and nation-building” was being “targeted for narrow and partisan interests''.

Prominent leaders, including Deuba and ‘Prachanda’, blamed Oli for his failure to tackle the surge in COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks.

They said “corruption and scandals” had blocked the supply of timely delivery of vaccines from India.

Just a month ago, the Himalayan nation of 31 million people was reporting about 100 COVID-19 cases a day.

On Tuesday, it reported 9,483 new cases and 225 virus-related fatalities, according to its health ministry -- the highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began. PTI SBP NSA PMS AKJ PMS PMS

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