By The Kathmandu Post
Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala, who has never held a public office, was elected prime minister on Monday (10 Feb) , garnering more than a two-thirds majority in parliament.
A seven-point deal signed between Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, the two largest parties in Constituent Assembly, on Sunday paved the way for 74-year-old Koirala to become the country’s 37th prime minister.
During a poll, Koirala—the sole candidate—got 405 votes in his favour. The third largest party, UCPN (Maoist), and some other parties voted against Koirala. Votes against his candidacy numbered 148.
PM Koirala’s priorities
Just before being elected, Koirala presented a list of his priorities to the parliament:
- Constitution promulgation within a year
- Local body elections within six months
- Common minimum programme and policies targeting social justice and economic prosperity
- Checking strikes and bandas
- Providing relief to conflict-hit people
- Controlling prices of essential commodities
- Improving environment for foreign investment
- Infrastructure development and promoting social services
- Enhancing relations with India and China and create ground for political consensus
- Zero tolerance against corruption
Koirala’s nomination was proposed and supported by party’s Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel and UML Parliamentary Party leader KP Oli. Koirala is the young republic’s sixth prime minister. Earlier, efforts to form a consensus government under him had failed.
Of the 571 lawmakers, 553 were present during election. The NC has 194 seats in the CA while the UML has 173. Some fringe parties also voted for Koirala. He has been leading the party since 2010 after the death of Girija Prasad Koirala. He is the fourth prime minister from the Koirala clan.
Since the establishment of democracy in 1950, Matrika Prasad Koirala, BP Koirala and Girija Prasad Koirala became prime ministers. The NC has got to lead the government after six years.
Koirala has a challenge to facilitate the constitution-drafting process as the executive head as the UCPN (Maoist), Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal and Madhesi parties remain in opposition.
Though Koirala is the party president, he needs to work hard to get full support from his own party which has at least two factions. Sher Bahadur Deuba, who leads a strong faction, was in the race for Parliamentary Party leader and was defeated by Koirala by a small margin.
“A new constitution will be promulgated within a year,” Koirala told the House before voting on Monday.
“I am determined to complete the constitution-drafting process through consensus, reconciliation and unity among the parties.”
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal said the agreement between the two parties is “unconstitutional”. “Our party has some reservations,” said Dahal.
Addressing the House before the election, RPP-Nepal Chairman Kamal Thapa announced to stay in opposition protesting the seven-point deal reached between the NC and the UML that made the coalition possible. Koirala also received warning from his coalition partner UML in parliament before the vote. UML PP leader KP Oli warned him not to move “unilaterally” as the government head. “The UML will not only applaud the government, we will also watch its functioning.”
Hinting at the party’s softened stance on presidential election, Oli said the UML had compromised with the NC rising above partisan interest “for the sake of the country”.
Koirala, a bachelor who has maintained a clean image and integrity in sixty years of his political career, presented some of the key priorities of his government. Koirala replaces the chief justice-led election government.