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Nepal: Sushil Koirala is PM

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sushilkoiralaThe fractious lawmakers of Nepal elected veteran politician Sushil Koirala as 37th prime minister of the country, with the huge task to steer through a new constitution to complete the Himalayan nation’s stalled peace process. The Nepali Congress leader became Prime Minister of Nepal with the support of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), ending months of political instability following last year’s elections. Koirala, the sole contestant in the premier race, got 405 of the 553 votes cast in the 601-member parliament while 148 lawmakers cast their vote against him. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists and the pro-Hindu pro-monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, the third and fourth biggest parties, and most of the Madhes centric parties voted against Koirala’s candidacy and will remain in opposition. To become premier more than 50 per cent votes are required under the interim Constitution.

It should here be noted that there has been a political deadlock in Nepal since November, 2013, when no party won the majority in Constituent Assembly elections. Attempts to agree a new constitution have been dogged by years of wrangling. Koirala must now form a coalition. He will be the sixth head of government since the country became a republic in 2008, following a peace deal with Maoist rebels in 2006. The Maoists won most seats in elections that followed the peace accord, but the government collapsed in 2012 after politicians failed to meet a deadline to agree on a constitution. The Maoists were trounced in the November 2013 polls, coming third behind the Nepali Congress and the UML. Koirala’s election came after a deal agreed over the weekend between the two largest parties, which combined have just short of a two-thirds majority in the 601-member assembly. Koirala became the fourth prime minister 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).

What does the election of Koirala means for Nepal: The election of Sushil Koirala as the new prime minister of Nepal has raised hopes for stability and progress toward a democratic constitution. Koirala, who is president of the Nepali Congress party and ran unchallenged, is now forming a government in coalition with Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).

The union brings together the country’s two largest parties, both of which have supported multiparty democracy for more than two decades. Koirala’s election represents a possible breakthrough in a political system that has been gripped by deadlock. In November, 2013 Nepal elected its second constituent assembly, which doubles as its parliament. The assembly is tasked with finalizing a new federal constitution that a previous assembly, which was elected in 2008 and changed Nepal into a republic, failed to achieve. A new constitution would cap a seven-year-old peace process with Maoist former rebels who waged an insurgency for 10 years in pursuit of a new constitution and the abolition of the monarchy. The protracted process has churned through six prime ministers, none of whom were able to achieve the necessary compromise to help the country move beyond deep political uncertainty that has kept investors away and prompted many Nepalese to leave the country.

Impact on India: Indian PM said Koirala’s election as prime minister represented an important milestone in consolidating the democratic gains in Nepal’s political transition. The formation of the new government means a lot for India. India wants that the proposed constitution should be enacted as early as possible.

For India, a prolonged political deadlock could have immensely harmed the bilateral ties. In the meantime, the eighth meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Committee on Inundation and Flood Management (JCIFM) was held in Kathmandu and both sides have agreed to cooperate on flood management and flood control, particularly on rivers that originate in Nepal and reach the Ganga river basin and others. In order to control the menace of flood caused by rivers originating in Nepal, India has been providing assistance to Nepal for strengthening and extending embankments along Lalbakeya, Bagmati, Kamala and Khado rivers since 2008. In nutshell, the new government has show positive approach towards the traditional ties with India.