Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda is preparing to reshuffle his Cabinet to fill as many as 16 ministries, which fell vacant after three political parties pulled out of his government, as part of his efforts to keep the newly formed fragile coalition together, according to a media report on Tuesday.
Nepal's second largest party in Parliament - CPN-UML - on Monday withdrew its support to the "Prachanda"-led government following a rift over backing the Nepali Congress' candidate for the presidential poll, plunging the Himalayan nation to another spell of political instability.
The Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) has also quit the government. The Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) has also withdrawn its ministers from the government. However, it would keep supporting the government from the outside.
With three major parties pulling out of the government, the seven-party ruling coalition has disintegrated.
Prachanda has now joined hands with the Nepali Congress and six other parties and wants a new power-sharing deal at the earliest, the paper said.
The Janamat Party, the Nagarik Unmukti Party and the Janata Samajbadi Party, meanwhile, ditched the previous alliance and joined the new one led by the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre. Leaders said the prime minister will have a tough time sharing powers among the eight parties.
Thinking that Cabinet expansion could help keep the coalition intact and garner support for the presidential polls scheduled for March 9, the prime minister is preparing to start discussions to fill vacant Cabinet positions from Tuesday, the newspaper said.
“Though the meeting of the new coalition is yet to be fixed, I think discussions will start from tomorrow,” said Jagannath Khatiwada, spokesperson of the CPN (Unified Socialist), a constituent of the new coalition. “We had not expected the UML to pull out so soon. Now things may move fast.” Manahari Timilsina, the media expert to the prime minister, said the ruling parties are expected to discuss the allocation of ministerial portfolios within a day or two, as the ministries cannot be kept vacant for long.
In the previous Cabinet, the Janamat Party was dissatisfied with its leaders not getting desired ministry, the Janata Samajbadi Party opted out of the government after failing to get the desired ministries while the Nagarik Unmukti Party refused to join the Cabinet as its demands were not fulfilled.
The UML’s decision on Monday to pull out of the government helped the prime minister to pick ministers from the newly-formed coalition partners.
On Monday, all eight UML ministers tendered their resignations to the prime minister, while four RPP ministers did so on Sunday.
According to leaders privy to the development, the Nepali Congress, the largest party in Parliament, could get the ministries vacated by the UML, while the Maoist Centre wants to keep the Home Ministry for itself. The ministry has been vacant after Rabi Lamichhane, the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) chair, resigned following the Supreme Court’s decision on his citizenship. The RSP’s three remaining ministers had resigned after the prime minister refused to give Home Ministry to his party.
The Nepali Congress leaders said, in the first phase, only a handful of ministers may be chosen from among coalition partners so as to develop confidence among them before the presidential election, and the Cabinet will get full shape only later.
“There can be discussion in the new coalition to send one or two ministers from its partner parties to the government so that some confidence is built before the presidential polls,” said Gagan Thapa, general secretary of the Nepali Congress.
After two major parties supporting the government decided to withdraw their support, the Prachanda-led government will have to seek a vote of confidence as per the Constitution.
In the 275-member House, the UML has 79 lawmakers while CPN (Maoist Center) has 32. CPN (Unified Socialist) and RSP have 10 and 20 members, respectively. Janamat Party has 6 members, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party 4 and Nagarik Unmukti Party 3 members in the parliament.
Prachanda needs 138 votes in Parliament to continue as the prime minister.
With the three major parties, NC (89), CPN-Maoist Centre (32) and RSP (20), Prachanda has the support of at least 141 lawmakers.
The UML will now act as the main opposition party, paving the way for the Constitutional Council to resume its functioning.
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