Ram Baran Yadav elected President, Paramanad Jha as Vice-President; CA passes the AEB; UNCTAD: Nepal still a long way to go before graduating from the LDC status; Sen cautions against UNMIN seeking a extended mandate
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  • Political parties initiated talks on the formation of a new government immediately after the passage of the Fifth Constitution Amendment Bill on July 13. The three major parties – Nepali Congress (NC), Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and the Maoists, failed to field a consensus candidate for president and vice president and instead fielded separate candidates. The NC, UML and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) agreed to share the three key positions of president, vice-president and chair of the Constituent Assembly (CA) on the morning of July 19. As per the understanding, UML and MJF agreed to back NC's presidential candidate Dr. Ram Baran Yadav while MJF's Paramananda Jha would be supported for the post of vice president and the UML would get the chair of the CA1. As a result, Jha was elected as Nepal's first vice president bagging 305 votes, beating his nearest rival Shanta Shrestha of the CPN (Maoist), who had garnered 243 votes.

    However, the two presidential candidates – Ram Baran Yadav of NC and the Maoist-backed Ram Raja Prasad Singh failed to gain the 298 votes needed to be elected for the post. While Yadav bagged 283 votes, Singh ended up with 270 votes with 24 votes being invalid. Reports noted that 578 out of 594 CA members registered in the voter list had cast their votes while five fringe parties boycotted the voting2.

    With no presidential candidate securing a majority, re-elections were held on July 21. Ram Baran Yadav was elected the first president of the Republic of Nepal garnering 308 votes while his rival Ram Raja Prasad Singh ended up with 282 votes3.

    A senior Maoist leader charged that the alliance among the NC, UML and MJF was a result of a conspiracy by foreign elements and hinted of the possibility of Maoists reverting to revolt. He also accused the UML of bargaining for the Home Ministry, and that their position had disrupted the alliance between the Maoists and the UML4.

    Meanwhile, the CA on July 14 passed the Advance Expenditure Bill (AEB) that authorized the government to incur expenditures totaling Rs. 73.54 billion in the new fiscal year that began from July 16. Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat on his part pointed out that the current fiscal year recorded 5.6 percent GDP growth, which was the highest in the last seven years. While the agriculture sector registered a 5.65 percent growth, the non-agriculture sector registered a 5.57 percent growth. The gross domestic savings increased to 11.5 percent, up from 9.7 percent in the previous year. Likewise, foreign assistance had substantially increased from Rs. 37.2 billion in the last fiscal to Rs. 57.6 billion in the current fiscal year. The government debt, during this period, had decreased from Rs. 329 billion to Rs. 324 billion. The general expenditure of the government had also increased by 24 per cent and the capital expenditure by 31.6 per cent from the previous years’ figures5.

    While the AEB indicated an excellent performance of the Nepal economy, UNCTAD in its report on the Least Developing Countries (LDCs) pointed out that Nepal could be more than 50 years away from graduating from the LDC group. UN Resident Coordinator for Nepal Rober Piper noted that one-third of the country’s population continued to live in some of the worst conditions to be found on the planet6.

    In other developments, Indian Ambassador to the UN Nirupam Sen cautioned the UNMIN against seeking a mandate beyond the aspirations of the people of Nepal. Sen pointed out that the UNMIN had established a presence in Nepal at the request of Kathmandu7.