Nepal President calls for national government by Aug 21

The president initiated the process for the formation of a new government soon after Khanal stepped down succumbing to intense pressure from the main opposition Nepali Congress and his key ally Maoists for his failure to push forward the peace process.
President Yadav directed the political parties to form a consensus government by August 21, President's Office was quoted as saying by Kantipur online.

Khanal was asked by the president to serve as the caretaker Prime Minister after accepting his resignation, Yadav's press advisor Rajendra Dahal said.

"Sunday being a government holiday, the president will call the parties on Monday to form a consensus government within a certain period of time," Dahal was quoted as saying by myrepublica online, the website of My Republica newspaper.

There will be election in the parliament for the majority government as per the interim constitution, if national consensus government is not formed within the given deadline, the report said.

61-year-old Khanal, who headed a fragile coalition of three parties, said he quit to push forward the stalled peace process.

"I have resigned to pave way for forming a national consensus government that would be instrumental in concluding the peace process and drafting of a new constitution," the Prime Minister said in his resignation letter to President Yadav yesterday.

CPN-UML leader Khanal, who was elected prime minster on February 3 after 17 rounds of polls in Parliament, had said earlier this month that he would resign if there was "no concrete" progress on the 2006 peace process.

Khanal's coalition is the shortest Communist government in the country. Khanal served for just over six months in power, making his government the shortest that has ruled the country in the last decade.

Nepali Congress, Khanal's key ally Maoists and the Terai-based Madhesi Front had mounted intense pressure on him to honour his commitment to step down as part of the May 29 five-point deal he had signed while extending the term of the 601-member Assembly on May 28 by three months.

The Maoist party, the single largest group in parliament, and the Nepali Congress have claimed the right to lead a national government.

The UCPN-Maoist has 238 seats and the CPN-UML has 108 seats in the Assembly, which acts as the country's interim Parliament. The second largest Nepali Congress has 114 members in the House.

The Maoists have projected Vice Chairman Baburam Bhattarai as the next prime ministerial candidate. They have stepped up consultations with other political parties to put together a national government.

Bhattarai underlined the need to form a consensus government to accomplish the tasks of concluding the peace process and drafting the new constitution, which has been stalled due to bickering among the political parties.

Nepali Congress is yet to decide whom to back amid claims by both former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Parliamentary Party leader Ramchandra Poudyal.

Nepali Congress has underlined the need to form a government under its leadership as both the Maoist party and the CPN-UML have already led a coaliton after the Constituent Assembly elections held in 2008.

The political parties have failed to find a common ground on the contentious issues of the peace process, constitution drafting and a new national government to succeed Khanal-led coalition.

The failure to put together a national government will deepen the political crisis as the term of the Assembly is set to expire later this month and it is unlikely that a new constitution will be drafted within the period.

Analysts said the political parties should forge a consensus to extend the term of the Assembly beyond August 31 and the next government be vested with two main responsibilities of concluding the peace process and drafting the constitution.

Integrating the 19,000 former Maoist guerrilla forces into the national army is one of the key sticking points in the stalled peace process, with military leaders and the Nepali Congress resisting the move.

The Assembly, formed in 2008 after a popular election, has failed to fulfill its main function to draft a new constitution though its term was extended twice, the latest on May 29 which is set expire in end of August.

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