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Nepal: Parliament Finally Elects A Prime Minister

After months of infighting, bickering and a record setting 17 attempts, Nepal finally has elected a Prime Minister. Jhala Nath Khanal, leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist and Leninist), was sworn in on Sunday, at a ceremony in capital Kathmandu. Although not known for his charisma or leadership ability, Mr. Khanal has certainly raised hopes for many who viewed chaos and confusion of past seven months as a serious impediment to Nepal's fragile peace process.

Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal taking oath of office. Image by Wikimedia user Krish Dulal, used under CC license.

Surya B.Prasai at American Chronicle is one among the hopefuls. He is confident that:

” …the peace process will now come to a definite conclusion in the next few months, Nepal´s democratic credentials further consolidated, and aid from the donor community channeled properly to the underprivileged communities in Nepal where it matters most. Recently the UN´s Resident Coordinator in Nepal, Richard Piper had lamented that development had been relegated to the position of a second class citizen in Nepali political dialogue. “

Despite the optimism and a chance for fresh start, there are significant roadblocks on Mr. Kahanl's path. He cannot ignore Nepal's power crisis which has severely crippled the country's economy and industries. China Dialogue has Deepak Adhikari’s in-depth analysis of the energy drought.

“With winter in full swing, the spectre of planned power cuts, euphemistically called “load shedding”, is haunting Nepal's electricity consumers. The country’s citizens dread this time of year, which not only brings the Himalayan chill but also the inevitable power shortages, beginning in October to November and continuing until the monsoon arrives in June or July. By February the cuts are expected to intensify to 16 hours a day.”

Capital Kathmandu is already suffering through 14 hours of daily power cuts. Jhala Nath Khanal's government will have to find a solution to the energy crisis before the frustration on the streets boils over.

As a communist leader, Khanal refused to take oath of office in name of God and some are calling him a hypocrite for this. Blogger Umesh Shrestha at MySansar asks:

“तर शपथ ग्रहण गर्दा त्यही ईश्वरको नाममा शपथ लिन चाहिँ तपाईँ किन अघि सर्नुभएन। यदि तपाईँ ईश्वरलाई नमान्ने कम्युनिस्ट हुनुहुन्छ भने बालुवाटार प्रवेश गर्नुअघि चाहिँ किन ईश्वरको चित्र भएको कपडा घाँटीमा भिरेर पूजाआजा गर्नुहुन्छ ? किन यो दोहोरो मापदण्ड ?”

But you did not take oath of office in name of God. If you are a communist and don't believe in God, why did you organize a religious ceremony before entering the official Prime Minister's residence? Why the double standard?

Will the Gods be irked too? That is for future to reveal but Khanal's term could be yet another missed opportunity if he cannot manage fixing the energy crisis and get the peace process moving.

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