KATHMANDU (AFP): Nepal’s president on Monday gave warring political factions three days to avert a budget crisis that could leave 500,000 public workers unpaid, and also to agree a date for elections. Nepal has not had a parliament or fully functioning government since June and the Maoist caretaker administration has failed to fulfil a pledge to arrange polls which were due this week.
The Himalayan country’s opposition parties have said they will not agree on a new election date or support the budget without the resignation of Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. Nepal has been surviving on emergency funds but they ran out last week. Teachers, police and soldiers face the prospect of missing out on their pay packets in mid-December if the crisis is unresolved.
President Ram Baran Yadav has insisted he will not sign off on the 450 billion-rupee ($5.2 billion) budget unless it can be agreed upon by all parties. Yadav – whose duties are normally ceremonial – said he would “step in” and formally request a national unity government if no agreement is reached by Thursday. “The parties should not take the country towards a vacuum by prolonging a state of indecision,” Yadav said in comments reported by his spokesman.
Yadav does not have the power to disband the Maoist administration. But his latest move is seen as an attempt to apply pressure for political consensus by intervening directly for the first time. Bhattarai’s caretaker administration was unable to win support for its budget in July. Unless a deal is reached, it may be unable to carry out any functions of government.
“The government has to buy fuel for hundreds of its vehicles. It will face an unprecedented problem,” economic analyst Gokarna Awasthi told AFP. “Also the health ministry won’t be able to supply subsidised medicines to its health posts across the country.” In May political leaders failed after years of wrangling to meet a deadline to draw up a peacetime constitution and parliament was dissolved. Nepalis had voted for the assembly in 2008 to write the constitution for a new social and political order in a country that remains deeply unequal six years after the end of a decade-long civil war which claimed 16,000 lives.
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