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Ram Chandra Paudel becomes Nepal’s third president backed by 8-party alliance

Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda (left) hugs president-elect Ram Chandra Paudel

KATHMANDU: Lawmakers of federal and provincial assemblies have elected Ram Chandra Paudel as Nepal’s third president on Thursday.

Paudel, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress, who once served as parliament speaker and deputy prime minister, emerged victorious in the presidential elections held on a weighted voting system. He defeated Subhas Nembang, a presidential candidate of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the main opposition.

Paudel will take charge after the term of outgoing president Bidya Devi Bhandari expires on March 12.

Ram Chandra Paudel
Ram Chandra Paudel is set to assume Nepal’s presidency later this month

According to Nepal’s Election Commission, out of 52,628 votes by weightage, Nepali Congress candidate Paudel secured 33,802 votes while Nembang of CPN-UML received 15,518 votes.

The Electoral College comprising the members of the House of Representatives, the lower house, National Assembly, the upper house, and seven provincial assemblies voted to elect Paudel as the president of Nepal.

The vote weightage of a member of Nepal’s federal parliament comprising the House of Representatives and the National Assembly is 79 while it is 48 for the provincial assembly members.

Of the 881 federal and provincial lawmakers eligible to vote, as many as 831 votes were cast in the presidential elections today, according to the Election Commission.

The commission stated that 313 federal lawmakers and 518 provincial assembly members cast their votes.

Fourteen MPs of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Prem Suwal of the Nepal Majdoor Kishaan Party did not cast ballots in the presidential elections, Amrita Bhandari, an official at the EC told local media.

CPN (Maoist Centre) lawmaker Barshaman Pun and Nepali Congress lawmaker Chandra Bhandari did not cast their ballots as they had fallen sick. UML’s Laxmi Koiri, who is facing murder charges, also could not cast votes.

A total of 28 provincial assembly members of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and three provincial assembly members of the Nepal Majdoor Kishan Party also abstained from voting, according to the Kathmandu Post.

Paudel was a common candidate of the eight-party ruling alliance while his rival Nembang had his party’s lone support.

The election of the new president comes two weeks after the collapse of the left-dominated seven-party ruling alliance after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda severed ties with KP Sharma Oli, chairman of the CPN (UML). The duo had differences over the presidential nominee.

Prime Minister Prachanda sought Oli’s support to elect the Nepali Congress nominee for the presidency while Oli rejected the idea and insisted that Prachanda should accept the UML nominee as agreed among the then seven-party ruling alliance at the time of the formation of the government in December last year.

Nepal will now hold elections to pick a new vice president next week. With the election of the new vice president, the country’s key constitutional plum posts will be fulfilled.

Earlier, the country’s parliament held elections to elect a new speaker of the lower house of federal parliament in February. CPN (UML)’s Debaraj Ghimire was elected the speaker with the backing of the then seven-party alliance.

Also Read: Congress, UML file nominations for Nepal’s presidential elections amid dramatic political realignments

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