Parliament failed to elect a new prime minister even as 11 lawmakers from the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) crossed the floor to vote for UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal during the third-round voting on Monday (2 August).
Neither of the two candidate — Dahal and Ram Chandra Paudel of Nepali Congress (NC) — secured a simple majority in the run-off voting though Dahal succeeded in increasing his vote as compared to the votes he secured in the previous two rounds.
Dahal got 259 out of the total 581 votes cast Monday, up from 141 during the second round. While 114 parliamentarians voted against him, the number of those choosing to stay neutral in this round stood at 208.
Likewise, Paudel secured 124 out of 556 votes cast in his round. Of the total, 246 members voted against and 186 stayed neutral.
While 18 members abstained from voting in Dahal’s round 43 chose to do so during Paudel’s turn. The 601-seat parliament has 599 active members as a case regarding two memberships is pending at the Supreme Court.
The fourth-round voting for a new prime minister will be held on August 6. Speaker Subas Nembang made the announcement in the House following a decision taken to this effect by parliament’s Business Advisory Committee (BAC).
Maoist Chairman Dahal increased his vote significantly in the third round as 11 lawmakers from the Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (MPRF) crossed the floor to vote for him. The MPRF along with the other three Madhes-based political parties had earlier in the evening decided to stay neutral.
According to Nandan Kumar Dutta, one of the MPRF lawmakers who led the revolt against the party decision, those voting for Dahal are Dutta, Renu Kumari Yadav, Hari Narayan Yadav, Mohammed Istiyaq Raya, Jay Ram Yadav, Bijay Yadav, Om Prakash Guljari, Shiva Pujan Raya, Atma Ram Prasad Sah, Abhishek Pratap Sah and Shrawan Agrawal.
Nepal Workers Peasants Party (5 seats), Nepal Janta Dal (2 seats) and Nepa Rastriya Party (1) are among those voting for Dahal. The UCPN (Maoist) alone has 237 votes in parliament.
MPRF Chairman Upendra Yadav and Co-Chairman JP Gupta as well as 11 other lawmakers cast their votes to stay neutral.
“We revolted against the party leadership as they pressed us to stay neutral even after 19 lawmakers from our parliamentary party were for voting Dahal as the UCPN (Maoist) is more positive toward addressing Madhesi concerns than Paudel,” Dutta said.
He accused the party leaders of pressing lawmakers to stay neutral although the party central committee meeting clearly decided to vote whichever candidate would be ready to address the agenda of the Madhesi parties. “We found the Maoist party more positive in this connection, therefore we voted for them,” he added.
Three other Madhes-based parties — MPRF-Democratic, Tarai-Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) and Sadbhawana Party (SP) — cast neutral votes.
The third-largest party, CPN-UML, has been staying neutral ever since UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal´s candidacy was withdrawn from the first round. The party has said UML lawmakers would cast their votes only if there is a possibility to elect a prime minister commanding a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Earlier, the United Democratic Madhesi Front, the alliance of MPRF-D, MPRF, TMDP and SP, had decided to stay neutral, saying they needed further discussions with the Maoists over their demands.