Koirala takes oath as new Nepal PM, poll date announced
Apr 1, 2007 - 1:43:20 PM

Kathmandu, April 1 - A new chapter in Nepal's history began Sunday with veteran politician Girija Prasad Koirala named the new prime minister of Nepal and the date of the revolutionary election finally announced, after months of wait.

Koirala, who was also head of the government formed last April following the fall of King Gyanendra's regime, Sunday submitted his resignation in parliament, paving the way for a new interim government with the Maoist guerrillas as partners.

'I tender my resignation to pave the way for the interim constitution,' the 84-year-old leader said in his brief resignation letter.

Immediately after that, his name was proposed as the new prime minister and unanimously approved.

There was thunderous applause in the house as Speaker Subhash Nembang named him prime minister and the leader took oath of office.

This is Koirala's sixth stint as prime minister, making him the longest-serving Nepal premier, outflanked only by the late Jung Bahadur Rana, the first Rana prime minister of Nepal.

The breakthrough came after Nepal's ruling seven parties and the Maoists had remained deadlocked in a bitter tussle for power for nearly three months.

Though they agreed on power-sharing Friday and the new government was expected to be announced within 24 hours, a fresh feud erupted over the second senior most minister in the new cabinet.

While Koirala wanted his aide ram Chandra Poudel to be the number two in the cabinet, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist -, the second biggest party in the government, was pressing for left leader Sahana Pradhan.

However, Koirala had his own way finally, with the UML being the one to blink first at another eight-party meet held Sunday morning.

The meet also announced that the constituent assembly election, that would decide the fate of monarchy, would be held on May 20.

For the first time in Nepal's history, people would decide if they want Nepal's 238-year-old crown to remain or be scrapped for a republic.

The leaders have also decided that if King Gyanendra tries to sabotage the polls, as is widely feared, parliament would have the right to remove him if two-third of the legislators agree to do so.

Eleven years after the Maoists began an armed insurrection to overthrow monarchy, on Sunday they came the closest so far to their target.

It is also a formal end to the communist insurgency that killed over 13,000 people, signalling the return of peace.

However, though the Maoists finally join the government with five key ministries, there are still reservations that they will resort to violence.

Legisator Pashupati Shumsher Rana, whose Rastriya Prajatantra Party is the biggest opposition party in parliament, indicated that in the house Sunday by raising concerns about the security situation.

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