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Published: Sunday January 26, 2014 MYT 4:55:02 PM
Updated: Sunday January 26, 2014 MYT 4:55:55 PM

Nepal makes headway in path to choose new PM

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Social democrat Sushil Koirala was named as candidate for the Himalayan nation's prime minister by the Nepali Congress party on Sunday, clearing a major hurdle for the formation of a new government two months after an election.

The party emerged as the biggest political group in the November election for a constituent assembly which also works as the parliament. But a new government has not been formed yet amid a row within the party over who should be the new leader.

Koirala, who is also the party head, defeated three time former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in a vote by party legislators.

Nepal, sandwiched between India and China, has been running under an interim constitution since the 2008 abolition of the centuries-old monarchy and the prolonged political deadlock has crippled the economy, forcing thousands to seek work abroad.

Koirala must be elected by a majority in the parliament, which holds its first meeting on Sunday and is yet to fix a date for the election of the premier.

"Our priority is to form a government of national consensus, including all major political parties in the parliament. This is necessary to draft the constitution within one year," said Dilendra Prasad Badu, a senior Nepali Congress leader.

Koirala will need the support of the UML, a moderate communist party, to win as his party controls only 194 votes in the 601-seat parliament.

Party officials said the leader is trying to persuade Maoist former rebels also to join a national unity government for stability in the impoverished mountainous nation that has seen five government changes since a 2008 election.

But the former rebels fear that the Nepali Congress and the UML, the second largest group, could unite against it to water down their vision of a federal and secular republic.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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