Ending a seven month-long political deadlock, Nepal on Thursday elected veteran communist leader, Jhalanath Khanal as the country’s new prime minister.
The breakthrough came after opposition Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) withdrew its chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal from the race and decided to vote for Khanal.
The surprise move, opposed by the Baburam Bhattarai faction of UCPN-M, tilted the balance in Khanal’s favour.
He secured 368 votes while Nepali Congress’s Ram Chandra Poudel got 122 votes. Deputy PM Bijay Kumar Gachchadar of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) came third with 67 votes.
Khanal, who is chairman of Communist Party of Nepal -Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), becomes the 34th Prime Minister of Nepal and will replace caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal from his party.
The 60-year-old from Sakhejung in Ilam district of eastern Nepal now faces the tough task of completing the peace process and drafting the new constitution within the May 28 deadline.
“No party can achieve both these alone. Hence, we are stressing on completing them through consensus,” Khanal said.
While the exact nature of agreement between Dahal and Khanal is not yet clear, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML’s partner in the previous ruling coalition, has raised doubts about it.
“Coalitions formed through dramatic means don’t reflect true consensus,” said Poudel in his address terming the Maoist-CPN-UML alliance as “hypocrisy” for the sake of power.
In his address, Dahal said that despite being the biggest party in the parliament he decided to step down in order to break the government formation.
Nepal had been without an effective government since July last year and 16 rounds of voting in parliament to elect a new prime minister had failed to end the deadlock.