Nepal's parliament again fails to elect new PM
Nepal's parliament failed for the sixth time to elect a prime minister yesterday, as the house speaker warned of a "serious crisis" if a new government is not in place soon.
The country has been without a government since June 30, when former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal stood down under pressure from the opposition Maoist party to pave the way for a new power-sharing administration.
Since then, political leaders have been unable to agree on the shape of the new administration and five earlier votes to try to select a new prime minister have failed.
The Maoists, who fought a decade-long civil war against the state before transforming themselves into a political party ahead of 2008 elections, hold the largest number of seats in parliament, but not enough to govern alone.
Party leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, is standing against Ram Chandra Poudel, chairman of the second-largest party in parliament, the centrist Nepali Congress.
But neither candidate has been able to secure the backing of the rival parties they need to form a new coalition government.
The Maoists are in talks with a grouping of four small parties that collectively hold 82 of the 601 seats in parliament, but no deal has yet been done.
Dahal secured 240 votes to Poudel's 122 in Sunday's poll, in which the third-largest party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), remained neutral.
It has called on both candidates to withdraw from the race and for the parties to open negotiations on forming a power-sharing government.
In the meantime, the country is being ruled by a caretaker government with limited powers, a situation that has delayed much-needed public spending in one of the world's poorest countries.
Before the vote, the speaker of the house Subas Nembang said people were growing increasingly frustrated by the stalemate and warned of a "serious crisis" if it persisted.
"The impasse has raised questions about the democratic system," he told AFP.
"The country has been ruled by a caretaker government for two months, resulting in a delay to the annual budget, and it is heading towards a serious crisis."
Nepal's parliament, or Constituent Assembly, was elected in May 2008 with a two-year mandate to complete the country's post-war peace process and draft a new national constitution.
But it has failed to complete either task, hampered by disagreements between the Maoists and their rivals.
Lawmakers voted on May 31 to extend its term to give them time to complete the constitution and the peace process but little progress has been made since then.