Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

Nepal: Prachanda Becomes Prime Minister

Posted by Mike E on August 16, 2008

Ex-rebel Maoist chief elected as Nepal’s new PM

The vote clears the way for the ultra-leftists, still listed by the United States as a terrorist organisation, to plough ahead with their vow to radically reform one of the world’s poorest nations.

The vote in Nepal’s constitutional assembly also ends months of political deadlock that followed the sacking of unpopular king Gyanendra and the abolition of the 240-year-old monarchy.

Prachanda, 53, led a decade-long mountain and jungle insurgency to overthrow the monarchy — a war which cost at least 13,000 lives and shattered the landlocked country’s mainly-agricultural, subsistence-based economy.

He was backed by 464 deputies, with 113 against, constitutional assembly chairman Subash Nemwang announced. His only rival was Sher Bahadur Deuba, a three-time former premier and member of the centrist Nepali Congress party.

Assembly members cheered, clapped and banged their desks after the results were announced.

“I am very happy and very emotional,” a visibly overwhelmed Prachanda told reporters as he left the assembly hall in Kathmandu.

The charismatic, moustachioed leader — whose nom-de-guerre means “the fierce one” — had dozens of orange garlands and silk scarves placed around his neck, and his forehead covered in red powder from traditional blessings.

His appointment as the most powerful man in Nepal comes less than two years after he signed a peace deal with mainstream parties and vowed to renounce violence.

In April he steered his party to victory in elections for the new assembly, set up as part of the peace deal to abolish the monarchy and write a new constitution.

Maoist number-two Baburam Bhattarai hailed a “golden dawn” for Nepal, and compared Prachanda to Napoleon and Lenin.

“We have already finished destroying the roots of feudalism in Nepal. Under the leadership of Prachanda, the main agenda of the new administration will be nationalism, republicanism, economic and social transformation,” he said.

Born into a high-caste but poor farming family, Prachanda — whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal — was driven to politics by the extreme poverty he witnessed in rural Nepal.

But the school-teacher-turned-revolutionary, who was inspired by Chairman Mao and Peru’s Shining Path, has had trouble shaking off his ruthless image.

Critics say the ultra-leftists have yet to fully abandon violence and that their feared youth wing — the Young Communist League — must disband to prove they are committed to peaceful democracy.

The defeated candidate congratulated the Maoists but warned the ex-rebels that they would not be allowed to install a dictatorship.

“I would like to congratulate the Maoists for entering multi-party competitive politics,” Deuba said.

“We will stay in opposition and keep an eye on the Maoists’ activities while they run the government. We will oppose their actions if their activities incline towards autocracy.”

The United States embassy here said Washington would work with the new government even though it has blacklisted the Maoists.

The European Union and Japan — also major donors to aid-dependent Nepal — also welcomed the election.

Prachanda faces huge challenges including urgently dealing with soaring food and fuel prices, and integrating the 20,000-strong rebel army that is currently confined to United Nations-monitored camps into the national army.

“The integration of People’s Liberation Army into the Nepal Army will see lots of arguments and counter-arguments. The way they deal with the army is very crucial,” said Amit Dhakal, editor of the Kathmandu Post newspaper.

“The Maoists will try to bring in populist and radical economic reforms. But financially they will have lots of constraints.”

9 Responses to “Nepal: Prachanda Becomes Prime Minister”

  1. Comments said

    Of course, this is what we’ve been hoping for since we toasted the election victory in April with champagne. But the process has been so complex and confusing that it’s hard (for me anyway) to know how to assess this victory. A week ago it looked like Nepal Congress and CP(UML) would effectively block Prachanda from becoming PM, and suddenly he has 2/3 support from Parliament. As the head of government, he will have broad powers, but the (UML) president controls the military of the old state. I guess the significance of all this will be shown in the handling of the question of the Army.

  2. Nickglais said

    Why is this new not making the front page of Kasama ?

  3. Nickglais said

    Why is this news not making the front page of Kasama ?

  4. zerohour said

    Is the control of the old military the key difference between the Presidency and the Prime Minister?

  5. Iris said

    I thought that the President has jursidiction over the army. If the president is a UML guy, and the UML supported Prachanda as PM, what does that mean?

    What is the Nepali Congress party saying about all this?

  6. arthur said

    Nepali Congress is saying they will form a parliamentary opposition in the Constituent Assembly.

    Army currently controls itself. President basically ceremonial. UML (revisionists) apparantly will have Home Ministry (police) but Maoists have the other key Ministries including Defence which (theoretically) controls Army. Will still be a complex struggle for integrating the two armed forces, which the old guard strongly opposes as undermining even a pretense that they could take on the PLA again.

    It was “all over apart from the shouting” back in 2006 when Prachanda announced “Our Revolution Has Won”. I think the shouting will however still continue for a while but people are gradually adjusting to the new reality.

  7. The President is Ram Yadav from Nepal Congress. He is the formal head of the army but as far as I know real power over the army ultimately lies with the Constituent Assembly. The problem here is that this is a bourgeois organ of power, not a revolutionary one. The question of how CPN (M) proposes to move towards New Democracy is what we really should be discussing.

  8. Mike E said

    I suspect that the army is not particularly impressed by the Constituent Assembly’s claim to have power over it. Who ultimately “has power” over the army is yet to be seen. And how that army will be eliminated as a force for oppression has not yet become clear.

    Question: is that army really “a bourgeois organ of power”? I wonder whether it has generally represented a bulwark of feudal (not capitalist) power (both in the form of the monarchy, but also the general production relations of the country.)

  9. Nhorning said

    Taking that into account, I think it’s clear why the Maoists refused to grant the NC the defence ministry.

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