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Maoist chief elected Nepal PM
IANS: Kathmandu, 15 Aug 2008
Published on 16 Aug. 2008 12:35 AM IST
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Twelve years after they waged an armed war to capture power, Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas Friday finally fulfilled their desire lawfully with their chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal winning the prime minister's election with a sweeping majority to become the Nepal republic's first premier.
Dahal, better known by his nom de guerre Prachanda, vanquished his sole rival former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba by garnering 464 votes, a more than two-thirds majority, while he needed only a simple majority to win.
Deuba, who was sacked twice by King Gyanendra in the past for failing to hold elections and was the arch enemy of the underground Maoists during their decade-old "People's War", received only 113 votes.
While his wife Arjoo Deuba, also a lawmaker from his Nepali Congress (NC) party, voted for him, his mother-in-law Pratibha Rana, a lawmaker from the once royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, voted against him in an election fraught with tension and rivalry.
Outgoing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who had been steadily opposing a Maoist-led government, was the first to congratulate the triumphant Prachanda.
Shouts of jubilation rang through Nepal's constituent assembly that held a marathon five-hour session to elect the new prime minister after the major parties failed to reach a consensus even after four months of negotiations.
Finally, the Maoists were able to break the alliance forged between Koirala's NC and two of the major parties during the presidential election that saw the defeat of the Maoists.
On Thursday, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist proposed Prachanda's name for the race and received supported from the ethnic Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF).
The new alliance made it a foregone conclusion that Prachanda would win the election though three minor parties abstained from voting in protest against the failure of the major parties to form a consensus government.
Finally, four months after the national election, the Maoists will lead the first government of Nepal with the participation of the UML, MJF and some more minor parties.
However, the agrarian graduate who led a rag-tag army against the state for 10 years now has stiff challenges before him.
An ethnic lawmaker warned him that his alliance partners were as dangerous as explosives and could destroy the new government.
In the past, Nepal had a UML-led government only once that lasted only for nine months.
Though they reached a poll understanding, the Maoists, communists and MJF are however yet to reach an understanding over power sharing.
While the former will keep defence and finance, the UML will get home and tourism while the MJF will get sports and education.
However, the three are yet to reach an understanding on the post of deputy prime minister and decided to continue negotiations after the premier's election.
Prachanda has pledged to dismantle the military structure of party organs, run a consensus government and ensure that a new constitution is drafted within two years.

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