Amid ruling coalition crisis, Nepal elects third president

KATHMANDU: Amid a bitter crisis in its ruling coalition, Nepal on Thursday elected a social democrat as its third president since the Himalayan nation ended a centuries-old monarchy.
The election of Ram Chandra Paudel78, comes after a split in the Communist-dominated ruling coalition led by the Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a former Maoist rebel leader.
Last month, Dahal supported Paulcandidate of the opposition Nepali Congress party, against a candidate of its main coalition partner, the Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) to party.
UML has since withdrawn its support for the Prime Minister, forcing him to face a vote of confidence this month.
Dahal is expected to form a new coalition with the Nepalese Congress Party and other smaller groups within the next two weeks, party officials said.
He is already in the midst of another crisis as the Supreme Court will hear a motion seeking his arrest and an investigation into his leadership during a decade of civil war that killed thousands before ending in 2006.
Nepalese state television said Paudel, a former speaker of parliament, was elected by a majority of 566 members of both houses of parliament and members of seven provincial assemblies, beating his rival Subas Chandra Nemwang of the UML party.
The president is expected to play a largely ceremonial role, although he may play a key role during political crises.
Analysts say the biggest challenge for the new president is maintaining an impartial constitutional role.
“The president is not meant to act independently, nor to be a separate center of power,” said constitutionalist Bipin Adhikari. “In most cases, the president is expected to act on the recommendation and with the consent of the prime minister.”
Paudel, a veteran politician, replaces Bidhya Devi Bhandari, who will retire next week at the end of her five-year term.


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