Nepal makes headway in path to choose new PM

KATHMANDU Sun Jan 26, 2014 3:47am EST

Chairman of the Nepali Congress Party Sushil Koirala (C) speaks to a member of the media as he walks out from the parliament in Kathmandu January 22, 2014, after attending the first parliament meeting held after the November 19, 2013 Constituent Assembly elections. The new assembly was elected to write a constitution after the abolition of the 240-year-old feudal monarchy that the Maoists fought against. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Chairman of the Nepali Congress Party Sushil Koirala (C) speaks to a member of the media as he walks out from the parliament in Kathmandu January 22, 2014, after attending the first parliament meeting held after the November 19, 2013 Constituent Assembly elections. The new assembly was elected to write a constitution after the abolition of the 240-year-old feudal monarchy that the Maoists fought against.

Credit: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

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KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Social democrat Sushil Koirala was named as candidate for the Himalayan nation's prime minister by the Nepali Congress party on Sunday, clearing a major hurdle for the formation of a new government two months after an election.

The party emerged as the biggest political group in the November election for a constituent assembly which also works as the parliament. But a new government has not been formed yet amid a row within the party over who should be the new leader.

Koirala, who is also the party head, defeated three time former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in a vote by party legislators.

Nepal, sandwiched between India and China, has been running under an interim constitution since the 2008 abolition of the centuries-old monarchy and the prolonged political deadlock has crippled the economy, forcing thousands to seek work abroad.

Koirala must be elected by a majority in the parliament, which holds its first meeting on Sunday and is yet to fix a date for the election of the premier.

"Our priority is to form a government of national consensus, including all major political parties in the parliament. This is necessary to draft the constitution within one year," said Dilendra Prasad Badu, a senior Nepali Congress leader.

Koirala will need the support of the UML, a moderate communist party, to win as his party controls only 194 votes in the 601-seat parliament.

Party officials said the leader is trying to persuade Maoist former rebels also to join a national unity government for stability in the impoverished mountainous nation that has seen five government changes since a 2008 election.

But the former rebels fear that the Nepali Congress and the UML, the second largest group, could unite against it to water down their vision of a federal and secular republic.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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