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Nepal PM quits, clears way for Maoists to take power PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 30 June 2008

Kathmandu, June 27 ( - Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala resigned on Thursday, clearing the way for former Maoist rebels to form a new government after their surprise election win two months ago.

Koirala's move came after criticism from the Maoists that the veteran politician was unwilling to hand power to them even after his party lost the elections for a constituent assembly held in April.

"I announce in this house that I have abandoned the post of the prime minister," Koirala said in an address to a special assembly in Kathmandu.

The Maoists welcomed the move.

"His announcement is positive," Maoist chief Prachanda, who is tipped to become the new prime minister, told reporters.

Koirala, 83, became prime minister in April 2006 after weeks of street protests forced then King Gyanendra to end his brief absolute rule and hand power to political parties.

That prompted the Maoists to declare a cease fire and join a peace process with the government.

Although Koirala, chief architect of a 2006 peace deal that brought the Maoists from jungles to the corridors of power, has been elected to the special assembly it is unclear what position he will hold under the new government led by the Maoists.

Some analysts say Koirala was negotiating with the Maoists to become president, a ceremonial position, after the country abolished its 239-year-old monarchy and turned into a republic.

But the Maoists have refused any such role for Koirala.

"It basically shows that he lost in the power struggle with the Maoists who flatly refused to accept him as president," said Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times weekly.

Koirala's centrist Nepali Congress party, which is the second biggest group in the assembly, says deputies will sit in the opposition in the assembly meant to prepare a new constitution after the abolition of the monarchy. The body will also double as an interim parliament for at least two years.

The Maoists won 220 seats in the 601-member assembly to become the biggest group but are still negotiating with other political parties to form the government.

Party officials said the Maoists were expected to form a new government next week, after the election of the country's first president by the assembly.

On Thursday, dozens of deputies representing the ethnic Madhesis from the country's southern plains protested briefly, demanding changes in the interim constitution to include a provision for regional autonomy and more say in the government.

Scores of people were killed last year in ethnic protests and in clashes with rebel groups in the region which is impoverished Nepal's food basket and business hub bordering India.

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