Nepal vote likely to end in coalition, instability

AP News
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Posted: Nov 28, 2013 2:59 AM

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Elections appear to have resolved little in politically fractious Nepal as near-complete results released Thursday make a fifth consecutive coalition government — and continuing instability — all but certain.

The Himalayan country has stumbled through the last five years with no constitution and parliamentary paralysis in addressing chronic problems like poverty, fuel shortages and corruption.

None of the 122 parties that competed in the Nov. 19 elections received a clear majority, according to near-complete results from the vote-counting. A final tally was expected by Saturday. Voters were electing 240 assembly members outright, with the rest of the Constituent Assembly's 601 seats allotted to the parties based on their percentage of votes.

The country's many parties have argued chronically over the years about who gets to be the prime minister, whether the president should have executive powers and whether to divide the country into a federal system based on ethnicity or geography.

None of the parties' campaigns for the Nov. 19 vote suggested changing platforms or easing their respective demands.

The two largest parties, expected to hold two-thirds of assembly seats, have begun wooing political allies and drafting plans to lead the new government, even as many Nepalis said they wished instead that the two would team up.

"We want the two big parties to work together and form a strong government and quickly draft a constitution," office worker Ramesh Sah said.

A senior member of the Nepali Congress — which received the most directly elected seats in the 601-seat Constituent Assembly — said "it is natural for our party to lead the next government." Ram Sharan Mahat said the party, with 105 seats outright, would be looking to form a bloc "as broad as possible."

The second-place party, the Communist Party of Nepal with 91 directly elected seats, insisted it had as much right to form a governing coalition "since we are not too far behind," according to a top party member, Pradeep Gyawali. "If we get the opportunity we will take it."

All eyes were on the No. 3 party as a possible kingmaker, but the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has so far remained coy about any alliance. The party of former communist rebels, who dominated the last national elections in 2008, has said it won't consider joining any government until its allegations of election irregularities are investigated.

"There are political games going on already," said Prateek Pradhan, editor of the popular Nagarik newspaper.

Nepal has been slow to recover from a 10-year Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of its centuries-old monarchy.

Its first democratic elections in 2008 resulted in a coalition beset by wrangling that prevented its drafting a new constitution — a key step needed to unlock badly needed aid and development projects. That government eventually collapsed, and three more coalition governments followed.

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Follow Binaj Gurubacharya on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Binaj_APNepal.