Communist leader elected as Nepal PM

  • 12/10/2015
Khadga Prashad Sharma Oli (Reuters)
Khadga Prashad Sharma Oli (Reuters)

Nepal's parliament has chosen communist leader KP Sharma Oli as prime minister, tasked with unifying the quake-hit country after a new constitution triggered deadly protests, a border blockade and a nationwide fuel shortage.

Oli, of the Communist Party of Nepal on Sunday defeated by 338 votes to 249 former premier Sushil Koirala, who stepped down from the top job as required by the constitution adopted on September 20.

Oli is tasked with quelling protests over the new constitution and ending the blockade which has led to national fuel rationing, as well as pushing ahead with reconstruction after the earthquake in April killed thousands.

He is known as a moderate within his party despite its communist leanings.

"My request is that all the parties must work together and move forward in consensus," Oli told lawmakers in an address before the vote.

"There are groups that are dissatisfied with the constitution, we have to address their demands," said Oli.

"Our country has been devastated by the earthquake. I will accelerate the reconstruction process," the 63-year-old also said.

The current government is accused of stalling on rebuilding after the quake killed nearly 8900 people and left more than half a million homeless.

The constitution is aimed at bolstering the Himalayan country's transformation to a peaceful democracy after decades of political instability and a civil war.

But the constitution, the first to be drawn up by elected representatives, triggered a blockade by protesters at a vital border checkpoint, cutting off fuel supplies from India and sparking a nationwide shortage.

Protesters from Nepal's southern plains are incensed about the charter, which will divide the country into federal provinces.

More than 40 people have been killed in clashes between police and the protesters representing ethnic minorities, who say the new federal structure will leave them under-represented in parliament.

The constitution is the final stage in a peace process that began when Maoist fighters laid down their arms in 2006 after a decade-long insurgency aimed at abolishing the monarchy and creating a more equal society.