05/03/2006, 00.00
NEPAL
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New cabinet sworn in after Koirala mediates

by Prakash Dubey
Nepal's new PM names the members of his new cabinet. Many ordinary Nepalis are disappointed by the 48-hour delay and divisions among opposition parties.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal's newly-appointed Prime Minister, Girja Prasad Koirala, named the members of his cabinet after 48 hours of negotiations with seven pro-democracy parties. In addition to Koirala himself, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) gets the posts of deputy prime minister and foreign affairs minister to be jointly held by KP Sharma Oli; three departments go to the Nepali Congress (NC), one to the Nepali Congress-Democratic (NCD) and one to the United Left Front (ULF).

Contrary to tradition, the ministers were not sworn in the presence of the king, a step that represents a break with the past. However, the time it took to form the new cabinet left many disappointed.

"It is strange that a prime minister of the statute of Koirala announced his cabinet with a delay of 48 hours", said Surendra Amatya, a social worker and a strong supporter of the people's movement that forced King Gyanendra to capitulate and relinquish power. "The delay underscores the fact that the seven-party alliance is divided and this does not bode well for the future of democracy in this country."

The main stumbling block was the NCP's insistence that, in addition to the post of deputy prime minister, it hold the key Interior Department, a demand opposed by the NC. This forced Koirala to mediate among the various interests.

"This is not the time for a show of force," said Amatya. "They [politicians] must realise that the current parliament is yet not legitimate; their moral duty is to ensure that what they do does not betray the aspirations of the people."

Meena Ghimire, a lawyer and women's rights advocate, is concerned that the seven party alliance will fail and "this will deliver the country to the Maoists on a silver platter. Should this happen the alliance will end."

"Everyone knows that Maoist rebels accepted multiparty democracy as part of a strategy to take power," she explained. "If they do away with the monarchy and incorporate the Royal Nepalese Army into their People's Liberation Army, it will spell the end of the seven-party alliance and democracy. The Maoists won't be as vulnerable as the king, who had to concede to popular pressure. Instead, the people will fall victim to Maoist ideology. Those who live in the rebel-held mountains already know what that means."

"On the other hand," Ghimire said, "if the alliance leaders work together they'll keep in mind that cooperation is at the root of popular democratic aspirations and can be the basis of multiparty democracy. Nepalis want justice, dignity and freedom. The alliance should not repeat the mistakes of the last 14 years.

The new ministers are: Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister KP Sharma Oli from the Nepalese Communist Party; Interior Minister Krishna Sitaula, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat and Agriculture Minister Mahantha Thakur, all three from the Nepali Congress; Labour Minister Gopal Man from the Nepali Congress-Democratic; and Land Reform and Management Minister Prabhu Narayan Chaudhari from the United Left Front.

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