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Nepal assembly to pick new PM on Friday PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2008

Kathmandu, Aug 12 ( - A special assembly ruling Nepal will elect a new prime minister later this week, an official said on Monday, a post likely to go to the chief of former Maoist rebels who fought a bloody civil war in the Himalayan nation.

The Maoists scored a surprise win in a special assembly election in April but did not achieve a parliamentary majority, sparking a power tussle which left Nepal struggling to form a new government four months after the polls.

"The new prime minister will be elected on Friday," said Mukunda Prasad Sharma, a spokesman for the assembly. He said nominations by political parties must be filed on Thursday.

The prime minister will be elected by a simple majority in a house that now has 595 members, another official said. The Maoists hold 227 seats in the assembly.

The election of the prime minister will set the ball rolling for the formation of a government expected to be headed by the Maoists.

The Maoists say they are still in talks with different groups to cobble together a coalition government but have so far failed to strike a deal with other political parties, which say the former rebels must first completely eschew violence.

The parties also want the Maoists to return property and land they seized during a decade-long civil war in line with their commitment in a 2006 peace deal.

The centrist Nepali Congress party, the second biggest group in the assembly, said key cabinet positions, including the defence and home portfolios, should be evenly distributed by the Maoists if they head the new government.

"The Maoists still have the rebel army confined in camps and weapons in containers, and the peace process is yet to be taken to a logical conclusion," senior Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel told Reuters.

But the Maoists say giving key ministries to other parties would only make their prime minister ineffective.

"Maoists can't run the government if they are put in a wheelchair with their hands and feet tied together," Prachanda told reporters.

The civil war from 1996 killed more than 13,000 people before the Maoists signed a peace deal in which the government agreed to abolish the 239-year-old monarchy.

Nepal's special assembly, which is also meant to write a new constitution within two years, declared the impoverished nation a republic in April.

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