The Nepali Congress, the largest party in parliament, Sunday named its president Sushil Koirala as its prime ministerial candidate, clearing a major hurdle in the formation of a new government in the Himalayan nation two months after the constituent assembly elections.
The Nepali Congress emerged as the largest political party in last year’s Nov 19 polls for a new constituent assembly. But the new government could not yet be formed amid a row within the party over who should lead.
Three leaders, Koirala, senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and vice president Ram Chandra Poudel, were in the fray for the parliamentary party leader’s post. Poudel, however, opted out of the race after Koirala agreed to anoint him as the party’s acting president.
Of the total 194 votes cast, Koirala secured 105 votes while Deuba got 89. The Nepali Congress has 196 seats in the constituent assembly.
Deuba has already been the country’s prime minister three times after the 1990 political change when multi-party parliamentary democracy was ushered in after a popular movement which ousted the erstwhile partyless panchayat polity. Koirala has not even served in any ministerial position during his 50-year political career.
Koirala, 75, is single and widely recognised as a “clean” politician in Nepal. Under his leadership, the Nepali Congress emerged as the single-largest party besting the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in the Nov 19 polls.
Sushil Koirala belongs to Nepal’s Koirala clan which, akin to the Nehru-Gandhi family of India and the Bhuttos of Pakistan, has been deeply involved in the country’s democratic struggle.
If Sushil Koirala becomes prime minister, he will be the fourth from the Koirala 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).
Immediately after the announcement of his name as parliamentary party leader, Koirala told media persons that “it is the victory of the party, all its members and democracy… not me alone”.
Deuba later called Koirala on phone and congratulated him upon being elected to the post.
Following Sunday’s election, President Ram Baran Yadav is expected to soon call upon the political parties to form a new government in Nepal.
Though Koirala is eligible to become the prime minister as the leader of the largest party, he has yet to win support of either the second largest party Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) or the third largest party Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in parliament.
Nepal, located between India and China, has been running under an interim constitution since the 2008 abolition of the centuries-old monarchy and a prolonged political deadlock that has crippled the economy.