Nepal PM flayed by allies over poll delay
Apr 15, 2007 - 2:40:06 PM
Kathmandu, April 15 - Six-time prime minister and chief of Nepal's biggest party Girija Prasad Koirala's stock plummeted drastically with his allies flaying him in parliament Sunday for the delay in holding a decisive election.
As the 85-year-old Koirala, once hailed as the architect of the peace process in Nepal with demands for his nomination for the Nobel peace prize award, called an emergency meeting of his partnering parties Sunday to discuss fresh election dates, MPs held him and his Nepali Congress party responsible for the delay.
Asking for special time in parliament, Lilamani Pokhrel, senior leader of the leftist People's Front Nepal, came down heavily on the ailing premier, accusing him of putting his and his party's interests before the election.
Pokhrel, known for his acid tongue, accused Koirala of finding time to kick off his party's election campaign in Pokhara city and hobnob with foreign envoys while neglecting to formulate key election laws.
Suresh Ale Magar, newly appointed MP from the Maoist party, told the house that if the election was delayed any further, it would cause a rift between his party and the seven major parties.
Ale Magar's warning came a day after his party chief, Maoist chairman Prachanda, said if the election was delayed, the government should proclaim Nepal a republic in parliament or face his party's withdrawal from the peace pacts signed last year.
Nepal's chief election commissioner Bhoj Raj Pokhrel set the cat among the pigeons last week with his announcement to the media that it would be impossible to hold the election on the scheduled date due to the lack of time and fragile security situation.
When Koirala signed a peace pact with the Maoists last year, signalling an end to the decade-old communist insurgency, he had pledged to hold the election by mid-June.
However, this month, the new government said it would hold the crucial constituent assembly election on June 20, which means the new constitution would have to be amended to accommodate the new date.
But with yet another postponement on the cards, the Maoists are up in arms, calling it a conspiracy by the government.
On Saturday, celebrated as New Year's Day in Nepal, hundreds of Maoist soldiers came out of their barracks in Chitwan in southern Nepal, violating an arms accord signed with the UN, to express their anger.
The rebels have threatened to start another revolution - though an unarmed one - if the poll is delayed further.
The second largest party in the ruling alliance, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, has said that it holds Koirala and his party responsible for the fiasco.
Faced with cracks in the alliance, Koirala called a meeting of the eight ruling parties to come up with an amicable solution.
Nepal's fragile peace process hinges on holding a constituent assembly election through which voters will decide whether to abolish the 238-year-old monarchy.
Once a constitutional monarchy, Nepal became hostile towards the royal family after King Gyanendra tried to seize absolute power and rule the country with an iron hand for 15 months.
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