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Prachanda ditches Oli, agrees to elect Congress candidate as Nepal’s next president

Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda (Right) and former PM Deuba (Left) are back as allies

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s eight mainstream political parties including Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) have agreed to support the Nepali Congress nominee in the presidential elections scheduled for March 9.

A meeting of the eight political parties held at Baluwatar, the official residence of the prime minister on Friday evening, took this decision  according to leaders who attended the meeting.

Four ruling parties will back the Congress nominee–the CPN (Maoist Centre), the Janata Samajbadi Party, the Janamat Party and the Nagarik Unmukti Party, along with three parties outside the government— the CPN (Unified Socialist), Loktantrik Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha.

Gagan Thapa, general secretary of the Nepali Congress, said that eight political parties forged a political understanding to support the Nepali Congress nominee in the presidential elections.

“The Congress candidate will be supported by at least eight political parties in the presidential elections,” Thapa told local media after the crucial meeting.

The new political development comes a day before the deadline set by the Election Commission for filing nominations for the post of the new president. The commission has said that parties will have to file nomination papers for the post of the president by 3 pm on Saturday.

The Nepali Congress, the largest party in parliament, is yet to pick its candidate for the presidential elections. Two senior Congress leaders—Ram Chandra Poudel and Krishna Prasad Sitaula—have been in the fray within the party for the post of the president. Some Congress leaders also say that party President Deuba is also eyeing for the post. The party has called a meeting of the Central Working Committee on Saturday morning to take its final decision to pick an official candidate for the post of president.

Revival of old Congress-led alliance

Significantly, leaders say that the old five-party alliance, with the Congress and Maoist party as its key members, has now been revived.

Three months after its breakup with Prachanda’s Maoist party, the Congress has been able to make a comeback to power.

Prachanda became the prime minister on December 25 with the staunch support of Oli’s CPN (UML), after breaking an alliance with Deuba’s Congress party. The five-party alliance was formed after the ouster of the government headed by UML Chairman Oli in mid-2021.

By ousting the UML from power, the Congress party will join the Prachanda-led government soon, according to Congress leaders. The Congress and the Maoist party will jointly run the government from the Center to the provincial level.

UML sees ‘foreign hand’ behind Prachanda’s move

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) led by former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, which is presently a key coalition partner in the Prachanda-led government, said that the ruling coalition has now collapsed with the prime minister’s decision to elect the Congress nominee as the president.

“Prime Minister Prachanda betrayed the present coalition by agreeing to support the Congress nominee as the candidate for the post of the president. With this, the existing ruling coalition has now collapsed, inviting a fresh round of political instability in the country,” Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, the deputy general secretary of the CPN (UML) told local media. He argued that Prime Minister Prachanda decided to break the current ruling alliance at the behest of external forces.

Earlier on Friday, a meeting between Prime Minister Prachanda and UML’s Oli ended inconclusively. Prachanda insisted on a consensual candidate acceptable to the country’s major political forces including the Nepali Congress while Oli said the Maoist can’t backtrack on its understanding with the UML at the time of the government formation, according to sources close to Oli.

Oli, in their meeting, proposed Madhav Kumar Nepal, chairman of the Unified Socialist, as the presidential candidate. However, Prime Minister Prachanda rejected the idea. Despite not getting support from other parties, the UML is also preparing to nominate its candidate for the post of the president, according to Oli.

Also Read: Oli rocks Prachanda’s boat after adverse result

(Santosh Ghimire is India Narrative’s Nepal correspondent based in Kathmandu.)