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China’s ambassador steps up political engagements ahead of crucial presidential elections in Nepal

Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song calls on Prime Minister Prachanda

KATHMANDU: Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song, has stepped up his high-level political engagements in Kathmandu as political parties in parliament stepped up their dialogues on who should be elected the next president of the country.

Nepal is electing its new president on March 9 and political parties in parliament will have to file their nominations by February 25. Ahead of nominations for the crucial presidential elections, parties have started their internal debates to see potential nominees.

Ambassador Chen held separate meetings with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal, chairman of the Nepal Communist Party (Unified Socialist) who is also the former prime minister, on Wednesday.

Chen had met with KP Sharma Oli, chairman of the Nepal Communist Party (Unified Marxist Leninist), a key partner in the current government led by Prachanda last week, amid growing tensions between the Maoist party and the CPN (UML).

Prachanda is insisting on a consensual candidate acceptable to the country’s major political forces including the Nepali Congress while Oli is saying he will not accept a consensus president.

In their meeting on Wednesday, PM Prachanda and UML’s Oli discussed potential nominees for the post of the president, according to sources. It is learnt that Oli referred two names—Madhav Kumar Nepal, the chairman of the Unified Socialist and Subhash Nembang, vice chairman of the UML—as the potential candidates for the post of the president.

“Since Prachanda is in mood to accommodate the Congress candidate for the post of the president, he did not give consent on the names proposed by Oli for the same,” a source close to Prachanda told India Narrative on Wednesday evening.

With Prachanda and Oli failing to narrow down their differences, the fragile seven-party ruling alliance has further weakened, and it will collapse sooner or later, said sources.

Amid souring tensions between Prachanda and Oli, the Nepali Congress has stepped up its in-door dialogues with Prachanda with the hope that it could secure the post of the country’s president with the Maoist support.

Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, also the former prime minister, met with Prachanda at least twice in the past two weeks to rebuild trust with the Maoist.

The Congress, which is also the largest party in parliament, appears to be confident that Prachanda will ultimately break the current alliance with the UML and side with the Congress, reviving the old Congress-Maoist alliance.

Amid such political flux ahead of the presidential elections, Chinese Ambassador Chen is running the doorsteps of Nepal’s top leaders.

The ambassador’s recent meeting with Prachanda, Oli and Nepal, who are seen as pro-China, is meaningful especially as Beijing has long been encouraging the unification among the leftist forces in Nepal. Beijing believes that the communist forces in Nepal best serve its geo-strategic interests given their ideological proximity with the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to observers.

With the new China-friendly government came to power under the leadership of Maoist Chairman Prachanda in December last year, Beijing is willing to push forward rail-road connectivity projects under its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The Deuba government, which was well-disposed especially towards the United States, had denied executing projects under the BRI owing to geopolitical and financial stress associated with the mega infrastructure initiative launched by China’s President Xi Jinping.

Also Read: Fate of Prachanda-led government hangs in balance as rift with Oli widens