Nepal Has New PM

Posted August 28th, 2011 at 7:25 pm (UTC-5)
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Nepal's parliament on Sunday elected a Maoist candidate as the country's new prime minister.

Baburam Bhattarai, a senior member of the United Communist Party of Nepal, won 340 votes in the 601-seat parliament after receiving the backing of the country's smaller political parties. His only opponent, Ram Chandra Poudel from the Nepali Congress party, received 235 votes.

The 57-year-old Bhattarai will replace former Prime Minister Jhalnath Khanal, who resigned August 14 after failing to advance the country's peace process.

Bhattarai is the second highest member of the former communist rebel group after its leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda.

Nepal's government has been deadlocked since June 2010, when former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned under pressure from the Maoist opposition.

Maoists have more seats in parliament than any other party, but not enough to govern alone. They were allowed to rejoin the government after a 2006 peace deal. The agreement ended their decade-long insurgency that claimed more than 13,000 lives.

The peace process has since been stalled by deep differences between the country's political parties. They disagree on the shape of the new constitution and on the future of about 19,000 former Maoist fighters who are living in camps.