It's David versus Goliath for UNGA presidency

Hindustan Times | By, Kathmandu
Feb 20, 2011 11:20 PM IST

The race to become Nepal's prime minister ended at the beginning of this month. Utpal Parashar reports.

The race to become Nepal's prime minister ended at the beginning of this month.

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But Nepal is bracing for another contest later this week.

Unless one candidate withdraws as a last-minute compromise, Nepal's Kul Chandra Gautam is heading for a direct fight with Qatar's Nasir Abdul Aziz al-Nasser on February 25.

That is the date when the Asian group of ambassadors in UN will select a candidate for the presidency of the 66th UN General Assembly, a prestigious one-year term beginning mid-September.

While the Qatari is a three-term ambassador of his country to UN, Gautam, a former UN Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, is a more favoured candidate on paper.

In a bid to urge Nepal to withdraw its candidate, Qatar sent a junior minister to Kathmandu last week. But meetings with the newly formed government failed to cut much ice.

Instead of withdrawing Gautam, Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal and his deputy Bharat Mohan Adhikari pushed his case and asked the Qatari emissary to back out from the race.

Despite the failure at consensus, both countries agreed to be in close consultation on the matter and indulge in fair play should a secret ballot to select the winner take place.

The race is being described in some circles as a David versus Goliath match considering Qatar's financial might and Nepal poor economic status and supposed lack of international leverage.

Nepal is banking on the Gautam's credentials for a win, but there is speculation that Qatar might influence the poor South Asian nation to withdraw from the race with financial aid.

For a country beset with problems and instability, there is rare unity among political parties supporting Gautam's candidature and all are hoping for his elevation to the post.

It remains to be seen whether those voting for the presidency get influenced by Goliath or support David.

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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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