Newly-elected Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala outside parliament in Kathmandu on Monday. (Reuters)
Kathmandu, Feb. 10 (PTI): Veteran Nepali Congress leader Sushil Koirala, who spent 16 years in India in self-imposed exile, was today elected as Nepal’s Prime Minister with the support of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).
Koirala, 74, who is is former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s cousin, was the sole contestant in the race. He was elected with 405 votes in favour in the 601-member Constituent Assembly.
As many as 148 lawmakers from Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-Maoist), Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal and some small parties in the Maoist-led alliance voted against Koirala.
To become the Prime Minister, a candidate needs more than 50 per cent votes under the interim Constitution.
After voting, parliament speaker Surya Bahadur Thapa declared amid applause that Koirala had secured the majority.
Born in Biratnagar in eastern Nepal, Koirala became a member of the Nepali Congress (NC) party in 1955. He is known for his simple lifestyle and ideal thought.
Koirala served six years in prison on different occasions in Nepal and India.
Koirala, who became the country’s sixth Prime Minister since the monarchy was abolished in May 2008, went to India in 1960 after the former king suspended democracy and jailed dozens, including the Prime Minister-elect’s relatives. He stayed in India for 16 years in self-imposed exile.
Koirala, in his address to parliament, vowed to implement the new Constitution within a year. He also called for consensus, collaboration and cooperation among all parties to draft the Constitution.
“We also expect assistance from our neighbours India and China as well as other friends to complete our responsibilities,” he said.
Koirala is scheduled to be sworn in by the president later. He is also expected to announce a small cabinet and continue negotiations with other parties to join his coalition government.
No party could secure a majority in last year’s Constituent Assembly polls. The standing committee of the CPN-UML — the second largest party which has 173 lawmakers — backed Koirala for the top post after the party reached a six-point deal with the NC, which has 194 lawmakers.
The two largest parties in the Constituent Assembly inked the deal yesterday after several rounds of negotiations on power sharing.
They agreed to hold elections for the posts of President, vice president and chairman of the Constituent Assembly after it approves the new Constitution.
The pact also mentioned taking ownership of the past agreements of the dissolved Constituent Assembly regarding the drafting of the Constitution.
The CPN-UML had earlier pressed for new elections for the President and vice-president. However, after reaching a power-sharing deal, it agreed to support Koirala as Prime Minister. Koirala, who was suffering from throat cancer, had visited to the US last year for treatment.
The Prime Minister-elect, who is still hasn’t married, has so far not taken up any administrative post and has no experience in handling a ministry in the past. “Our party will shoulder the responsibility to conclude the peace process and produce a democratic constitution,” he said ahead of the vote.