Ram Chandra Paudel is set to become Nepal’s next President after he was backed by eight political parties on February 25 but the development may bring down the fragile two-month-old government of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, which could plunge the Himalayan nation once again into political turmoil.
Principal opposition party Nepali Congress' senior leader Mr. Paudel was endorsed by eight political parties, including the CPN-Maoist Centre of Prime Minister Prachanda, who sidelined his coalition partner K.P. Sharma Oli's nominee to support his candidacy.
Mr. Paudel will vie against CPN-UML’s Subas Nembang in the March 9 Presidential election, which may change the power equation in the country.
Mr. Paudel, 78, and Mr. Nembang, 69, filed their candidacies on Saturday.
Mr. Paudel’s candidacy was proposed by Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal, Maoist Centre’s Senior vice-chair Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Federal Council Chairman of Janata Samajbadi Party Ashok Rai and Abdul Khan of Janamat Party.
His candidacy was seconded by President of Loktantrik Samajbadi Party Mahanta Thakur, Congress vice-president Purna Bahadur Khadka, Nagarik Unmukti Party Chairperson Ranjita Shrestha, Chairman of the Rastriya Janamorcha Chitra Bahadur KC and Maoist Centre’s Hitraj Pande.
With the support from eight political parties, Paudel’s victory in the presidential election is almost certain.
The tenure of the current president, Bidya Devi Bhandari, will end on March 12. The Presidential election has put a serious question mark on the future of the seven-party ruling alliance.
Parliamentary elections were held in November last year but no party won a majority, leading to the formation of a coalition government headed by Mr. Prachanda. Nepal has seen political turmoil for years now as no party has succeeded in providing a stable government.
Mr. Prachanda, the 68-year-old CPN-Maoist Centre leader was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the third time on December 26 last year after he dramatically walked out of the pre-poll alliance led by the Nepali Congress and joined hands with opposition leader Mr. Oli.
Prime Minister Prachanda's party, which contested the November 20 parliamentary and provincial elections as a partner of the five-party alliance led by the Nepali Congress, left the alliance after refusing to give Mr. Prachanda any of the two key posts — the President or the Prime Minister.
Mr. Prachanda then forged an alliance with CPN-UML to form the government.
Mr. Oli has claimed that while backing Mr. Prachanda’s bid for Prime Minister last year, it was agreed upon that the post of President would go to the member of his Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) party.
But when the Nepali Congress, the largest party in the general election with 89 seats, voted for Mr. Prachanda during the trust vote on January 10, the new Prime Minister changed his tone and called for electing the President based on national consensus, something Mr. Oli rejected outright, the Kathmandu Post newspaper reported.
Prime Minister Prachanda received another jolt on Saturday after the National Democratic Party announced on Saturday it would withdraw from the government because of Mr. Prachanda’s support for Poudel.
Four Ministers from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), including the party’s Chairman and Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Rajendra Lingden who was part of the coalition government, also resigned.
The two parties are yet to officially announce their withdrawal of support from the coalition government.
If they do, Mr. Prachanda will have to seek a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament within a month.
The total number of voters for the election of the President is 882, consisting of 332 members of the federal parliament and 550 members of the provincial assemblies of the seven provinces.
The vote weightage of a federal MP is 79 whereas that of the provincial assembly member is 48.
The term of office of the President shall be five years from the date of election and an individual can be elected for the post of the President only for two terms.