Nepal palace nominee quits as PM

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By PRANAY SHARMA in Kathmandu
  • Published 7.05.04

Kathmandu, May 7: Royalist nominee Surya Bahadur Thapa today resigned as Nepal’s Prime Minister, a move that could pave the way to resolving the country’s political crisis.

Though backed by the palace in his 11-month tenure, Thapa failed to tackle either the Maoist problem or the challenge thrown by the parliamentary parties demanding the restoration of democracy.

His resignation comes in the wake of mounting pressure from the five-party alliance and other countries, particularly foreign donors who yesterday demanded that urgent steps be taken to restore democracy in Nepal.

But it is not clear yet whether Thapa’s resignation will provide King Gyanendra a little more space to manoeuvre or force him to give up some of the executive powers that he had taken away from the elected representatives. A sure sign of his willingness to opt for the latter option will be his announcement of a timeframe for holding elections in the country.

“As a Prime Minister I tried honestly to end the current stalemate and conflict. My faith in constitutional monarchy, multi-party democracy and sovereignty of people remains unaffected,” Thapa said in a televised address to the nation this afternoon.

“I have presented my resignation as the Prime Minister to His Majesty to pave the way for national consensus and to protect constitutional monarchy, multi-party democracy and the nation’s overall interest.”

“The solution to the Maoist problem must be sought through peaceful talks. Elections must be held as soon as possible to protect the constitution and democracy,” he added.

The king has asked Thapa to continue till an alternative arrangement is found.

But the development has sparked hectic parleys among the major players that include the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress (Democratic).

Political analysts say the moves made by the king in the next few days will reflect his sincerity in restoring democracy. He has two options — meet the parties individually or ask the five-party alliance plus Deuba, whom he had sacked two years ago as Prime Minister, to come for negotiations together.

To show their solidarity the five party alliance may not meet the king separately — though G.P. Koirala is keen on doing so — but go to the Palace together and put forward the name of a consensus candidate for the Prime Ministership.

Deuba may be asked to be the next Prime Minister, though he does not enjoy as much support as his rival Koirala, who controls most of the Nepali Congress members and supporters.

Early indications are that Koirala wants to be the Prime Minister, but for this he will need Madhav Nepal’s support. But since the latter is also an aspirant, he may break ranks and go along with Deuba either to get his support or jeopardise Koirala’s chances.

In the absence of a consensus, there is also speculation that Taranath Ranadhat, the speaker of the last parliament, may be asked to be the Prime Minister while the leaders of the alliance will be part of an advisory group to help him run the government.