Nepal’s parliament has elected Communist party leader, Khadga Prasad Oli, as the new prime minister, thrusting him into the centre of daunting challenges, from protests over the new constitution to rebuilding after April’s devastating earthquake.
Oli received 338 votes from the 597-member chamber, defeating his predecessor Sushil Koirala, who received 249 votes.
Oli, 63, is generally popular in Nepal and has a reputation for being outspoken. Some use the phrase “Oli ko goli” to describe him – “When Oli speaks, he fires [a bullet]”.
He had previously served as deputy prime minister and as a minister in previous governments even though he has a kidney condition and has had to make trips abroad for treatment to India and Thailand.
The leader of the Communist party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) received the support of many smaller parties, including their rival United Communist party of Nepal (Maoist).
Oli and Koirala were coalition partners in the last government. Koirala became prime minister in 2014, but the constitution that was adopted last month required him to step down.
It was still undecided which other parties would join in Oli’s new government.
He comes to power at a delicate time, with ethnic Madhesis and other groups in the south protesting against the new constitution in riots that have left 45 people dead. India, which has close ties to the Madhesis, is also unhappy with the constitution.
The country is facing a severe fuel shortage due to an unofficial blockade by India and Madhesis at a key border checkpoint. Fuel and cargo trucks have been stopped at the border since late last month, after the constitution was approved.
The constitution divides Nepal into seven new states, with some borders slicing through the Madhesis’ ancestral homeland in the southern plains along the border with India. The Madhesis, along with several other small ethnic groups, want the states to be larger and to be given more autonomy over local matters.
Talks last week between the government and protesters made little progress.
Soon after the election, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, called Oli on the telephone, congratulated him and invited him to visit India, according to a tweet from Modi’s office.
The conversation between the two men is the biggest positive development in recent days between the two south Asian nations.
A statement issued by the Indian embassy in Nepal said Modi expressed the hope and expectation that Oli will support all sectors of society so that there is peace and stability in the country.
“We are confident that the government of Nepal will address the remaining political issues confronting the country in a spirit of dialogue and reconciliation,” the statement said, an apparent reference to the tension with the Madhesi.
Source: The Guardian