After nearly a month since Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned from his post, Nepal was expecting a new prime minister today. The government—after missing the deadline to write a new constitution—did nothing specific in the past 21 days except wait for a new government to take over. While millions of Nepalis struggled through the workday with only four hours of electric power, the three major political parties–Maoists, Nepali Congress and CPN UML–were claiming political power. But, none of the three prime ministerial candidates managed to score a simple majority.
One of them looked very familiar. Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal—“Prachanda”—was back a year after being forced to resign as prime minister after an attempt to sack the army chief was revoked by president Ram Baran Yadav.
A candidate needs to get 300 votes in his favor to win, and as none of the parties have majority, the candidates need to find coalition support. The intrigue began in early morning Wednesday, when Maoists decided to support the CPN UML if they got a two-thirds majority in the election.
By the afternoon, CPN-UML’s Jhalanath Khanal—who had joined the race thinking that Prachanda would withdraw—came close to securing the PM post after Maoists and two other parties expressed their conditional support to him. Khanal himself went to meet members of one group, the Front, asking for support. The Front declined, saying that they “will not vote as none of the candidates agreed to fulfill [our] demands.”
In the two different rounds of election organized in the evening, Prachanda scored 242 votes, Nepali Congress’ candidate Ram Chandra Paudel managed 124 votes. Khanal withdrew from the voting process after being unable to secure two-thirds support.
The next election between Prachanda and Paudel will take place on Friday. “I am confident that I will win the election in the second round,” Paudel said. The lights were still on in Constituent Assembly Hall as he exited, but the rest of Kathmandu flickered and went dark.