Former Nepal prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has been elected president of the Nepali Congress, the country’s oldest political party.
The 69-year-old, head of the party’s so-called rebel faction, secured 1,822 votes to defeat acting president Ram Chandra Poudel, who bagged only 1,296 of the 3,140 votes cast. “There will be no factions within the party now. My sole focus will be on keeping it united and working together with others,” Deuba told reporters after getting elected late on Monday night.
He said that the Nepali Congress, being the largest party in the country’s parliament, will play a leading role in implementing the new constitution – which was adopted last September.
This is the first time in over two decades that the Nepali Congress’s top post has gone to someone outside the prominent Koirala clan.
The party president’s post fell vacant after the death of former prime minister Sushil Koirala last month, weeks ahead of the Nepali Congress’ 13th general convention. The first round of the voting held on Sunday was a failure, with none of the three candidates managing to secure more than 50% of the total votes. Deuba fell short of the figure by just 11 votes. A second round of voting was held on Monday, after general secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula – who came third in the first round – withdrew from the race.
The counting of votes for the posts of general secretary, treasurer and 61 members of the central working committee will take place on Tuesday.
Although Deuba has been the prime minister thrice, this is the first time he managed to secure the top post in the Nepali Congress – a party he has been actively involved with for nearly five decades. He lost the post to Girija Prasad Koirala in 2000 and then to Sushil Koirala in 2011.
Differences with the leadership had made Deuba leave the party to form the Nepali Congress-Democratic in 2002. Though both the parties merged in 2007, Deuba continued to be seen as the leader of the rebel faction due to his uneasy relationship with the Koirala camp.
Formed over seven decades ago, the Nepali Congress led several agitations to overthrow the hereditary rule of the Rana prime ministers and restore democracy in the Himalayan nation. Though the party is not a constituent of the ruling coalition, headed by the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, speculations are rife that it will join the government soon.