Pachanda quits PM race, Nepal Maoists to support Khanal

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Shirish B. Pradhan

Kathmandu, Feb 3 (PTI) In a surprise move, NepalMaoists'' withdrew its supremo Prachanda from the PrimeMinisterial race today and decided to support the Communistcandidate Jhala Nath Khanal, brightening his chance to commanda majority in Parliament.

A last minute decision by the main OppositionCPN-Maoist to withdraw in support of Khanal, the president ofCPN-UML, is likely to get elected to the post of PrimeMinister, ending the over seven months deadlock.

Nepal''s parliament is set to vote for a new primeminister under revised election rules designed to break adeadlock that has left the country without a government sincethe June 30 resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepalunder intense Maoists pressure.

Under the new rules, no lawmaker will be allowed toabstain from voting in the House.

The UCPN-Maoist has 238 seats and the CPN-UML has 108seats in the 601 member Constituent Assembly, which acts asthe country''s interim Parliament.

The second largest NepaliCongress, which has put up R.C Poudyal as its candidate again,has 114 members in the House.

Bijaya Gachhadar, the president of Madhesi PeoplesRights Forum -Democratic, is also in the race.

President Ram Baran Yadav had last week directedParliament to begin a fresh process for the election of PrimeMinister on the basis of majority vote as political partieshad failed to hammer out a deal to form a consensusgovernment.

Poudyal had failed to garner a majority in 16th roundsof voting, forcing him to quit the race.

The political crisis has been hugely damaging forNepal, which is still reeling from its decade of civil warthat ended in 2006. The standoff has delayed the drafting of anew constitution and conclusion of the peace process.

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