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Jhalnath Khanal, Nepal Prime Minister, Resigns

Jhalnath Khanal Resigns

BINAJ GURUBACHARYA   08/15/11 07:42 PM ET   AP

KATMANDU, Nepal — Nepal's major political parties staked competing claims on the prime minister's post Monday, plunging the Himalayan nation back into the years-long political squabbles that have left it without a constitution or stable government.

The country's latest prime minister, Jhalnath Khanal, resigned Sunday after failing to make progress toward adopting a constitution during his six months in office. It took 17 votes in parliament over seven months to get him elected in February.

Nepal's three major parties said Monday that they planned to hold talks on naming a new prime minister, but each insisted it should be the one to lead any new coalition government.

Dev Gurung, a leader of the Maoists, the largest party in parliament, said they would sit down for negotiations with other political parties but would insist that their deputy leader, Baburam Bhattari, be the prime minister.

Laxman Ghimire of the Nepali Congress, the second-largest party, said his party should lead the new government because the two other major parties failed when they led the most recent governments.

"There is little hope for an early agreement, but we will initiate dialogue with other parties in our attempt to form a consensus government," he said.

None of the parties have a parliamentary majority, making it necessary for any new prime minister to form a coalition government.

Despite the fears of renewed political deadlock, the United States expressed hopes Monday that there would be a smooth change of government.

The political uncertainty has made it impossible for Nepal to write a constitution that would complete its transformation from a kingdom to a republic and to cement the peace process that ended the decade-long civil war with the Maoists, who have since joined politics.

The lawmakers have twice extended the deadline for writing the new constitution and face a third deadline at the end of the month, which they also are expected to miss.

Khanal, who was chosen to help break the deadlock, faced demands that he step down from the opposition Nepali Congress party, which accused him of failing to live up to his promises to move forward the peace process in the Himalayan nation. The opposition had blocked parliament since late last month demanding Khanal's resignation.

Khanal also faced turmoil from within his own party and the main coalition partner – the Maoists – since the day he took office. They were not happy with the distribution of ministerial portfolios.

Late Sunday, his press adviser Surya Thapa said Khanal had submitted his resignation to President Rambaran Yadav.

"The major tasks of accomplishing the peace process and writing the new constitution have not progressed as desired," Khanal's office said in a statement. "Therefore, the prime minister stepped down with an objective to pave the way for forming a national consensus government and expedite the statute drafting and peace process."

Though Maoist guerrillas gave up their armed revolt in 2006 to join mainstream politics, thousands of former fighters still live in camps and their future is yet to be determined. Khanal had promised he would resolve the issue but failed to do.

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Filed by Eline Gordts  |