Election of popular Maoist leader as PM raises hopes in Nepal
The election of Maoist Baburam Bhattarai as prime minister has Nepal cautiously optimistic that the country may have found a leader who can end more than two years of political deadlock.
Maoist Baburam Bhattarai became Nepal's new prime minister on Monday. His election Sunday raises hope that the country may finally have found a leader who can govern and extricate the country from more than two years of political deadlock.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Bhattarai, third-in-command of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) that dominates the parliament, was elected on Sunday with 340 votes. His only rival, Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress Party got 235 in the 601-member parliament that currently has 594 serving members.
Analysts say Bhattarai, a key architect of a deadly 10-year Maoist insurgency, and also the person who played a pivotal role in transitioning his party from war to peaceful politics is the best suited to lead the country among Nepal’s politicians today.
“He was the face of the Maoist party during peace negotiations in 2005 brokered by India that eventually brought the Maoists to mainstream politics in 2006,” says Narayan Wagle, chief editor of the Nagarik daily.
Given the role of India in Nepal's politics, both as a military ally and as mediator during Nepal's lengthly civil war, Bhattarai's role can serve to assure India that integrating politically indoctrinated former Maoist fighters into Nepal's Army will not destabilize that army in the process, says Mr. Wagle.
Bhattarai is also known as a task man with clear priorities.
As finance minister, Bhattarai won praise – even from his critics – for significantly exceeding government revenue targets by successfully encouraging more businesses and individuals to pay taxes.
“With Bhattarai as prime minister, Nepalese people no longer have a reason to complain about lack of leadership,” says Gunaraj Luintel, executive editor of Annapurna Post daily.
“Bhattarai has an image of an honest politician, efficient administrator and a well-read person. He knows the tasks cut out for him and can devote more energy than his unsuccessful predecessors to complete them. The country has a good prime minister now, on whom people have faith,” says Mr. Luintel.
Bhattarai says he hopes to complete the peace process by settling the future of more than 19,000 Maoist former combatants, making concerted effort to draft a forward-looking constitution, and provide relief to people crushed by poverty, unemployment, and corruption.