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Nepal leaders now brainstorm 'neutral' govt

Publication Date : 03-01-2013


With the January 9 deadline set by Nepal’s Election Commission (EC) to clear hurdles if elections are to be held in April-May drawing closer, formation of a neutral government to secure the polls has featured in cross-party negotiations.

For leaders, this option is “the last resort” if major parties continue to undercut each other.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai proposed such a government after the opposition parties, mainly the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), rejected both the options provided by the ruling coalition—transforming the incumbent government into a national consensus one or seeking another leader from within the current coalition.

The idea of a non-partisan government, first publicly floated by Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has now been taken up by PM Bhattarai, who seems dead-set against a government led by NC President Sushil Koirala.

In separate meetings with senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party Chairman Mahantha Thakur, Bhattarai said a Cabinet led by an independent person can now be considered.

Subsequently, the agenda was taken up by an NC-UML meeting held at the NC’s Sanepa headquarters. However, the opposition parties flatly rejected the idea.

The NC-UML meeting “made an understanding” to hold intra-party discussions on the prospects and risks of forming a neutral government.

At least two names have come up to head the neutral government —former Speaker Daman Nath Dhungana and civil society leader and former Finance Minister Devendra Raj Pandey.

Both Dhungana and Pandey are not currently affiliated with any political party and are active members of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, a loose civil society forum.

PM Bhattarai has personally backed Pandey for the prime minister’s post, while a section of the NC and UML is in favour of Dhungana.

In his meeting with PM Bhattarai, UML leader Nepal reportedly demonstrated flexibility on a civilian-led government “if mid-May polls are guaranteed.”

However, his party, which still believes that a party-led government should hold the polls, has not taken any official decision on the issue.

“Personally, I believe that a civilian government could be formed to hold polls, although we have yet to decide on it in the party,” Nepal told the Post.

He said all parties, including his own, will discuss the PM’s proposal from Thursday.

UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal and leader KP Sharma Oli stood against the idea of a civilian-led election government in yesterday’s NC-UML talks.

Party leaders fear that a civilian-led government will severely erode their credibility in the public eye.

President Ram Baran Yadav is reportedly supportive of the neutral government idea as the political parties have continuously failed to come up with a consensus PM candidate, although he has not publicly spoken of such a position.

If the President were to make a choice at this point, he would opt for a sitting or former chief justice to head the civilian government , sources close to President Yadav told the Post.


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