Nepal’s new leader began the task of forming a coalition government on Friday that will face major challenges as the country struggles to complete its transformation to a peaceful, secular democracy.
Jhalanath Khanal, chairman of the UML (Unified Marxist Leninist) party, is expected to be sworn in as prime minister on Sunday after securing the backing of the Maoists, the largest force in parliament, in a vote on Thursday. His election ends a damaging seven-month leadership vacuum in the Himalayan nation, which is still struggling to recover from the impact of a decade-long civil war between Maoist rebels and the state.
The conflict ended in 2006 and led to the abolition of a centuries-old Hindu monarchy, ushering in a period of transition to democracy that has not always proved smooth. Nepal has been without a government since June, with political leaders unable to reach agreement on the formation of a new administration in 16 previous rounds of voting.
A new constitution, intended to reshape the country after the downfall of the monarchy, should have been completed by May last year but has been repeatedly delayed by disagreements between the parties.