Paudel elected as Nepal’s third president

Published On: March 10, 2023 08:00 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

Paudel’s election as president marks the beginning of a new political course in national politics

KATHMANDU, March 10: Ram Chandra Paudel, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress (NC), has been elected as the third president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. 

Paudel emerged victorious as a common candidate of an eight-party alliance, which included NC and the CPN (Maoist Center), securing a total of 33,802 votes. He received the votes of 214 lawmakers of the federal parliament and 352 provincial assembly members.

Paudel was supported by eight parties, including his own, NC, while his opponent Subas Chandra Nembang had the backing of his party UML alone. Paudel received votes from all parties except the UML, which fielded its own candidate, and Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP), which chose to remain neutral in the presidential election.

Although there was hope that Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) would vote in favor of Nembang, the RPP decided not to take part in the voting while RSP decided to vote for Paudel at the eleventh hour on Thursday. As a result, Nembang received only 15,518 votes as none of the other parties voted in his favor.

Paudel is succeeding Bidya Devi Bhandari, who served as the country's head of state for two consecutive terms. Ram Baran Yadav served as the country's first president after the abolition of the 240-year-old institution of monarchy. Paudel will take office on March 14, succeeding Bhandari, whose term expires on March 13.

Interestingly, both Paudel and Nembang, who contested for the post of president, have previously served as Speakers of the lower house of the federal parliament. Paudel served as the Speaker from December 18, 1994, to March 23, 1999.

The president in Nepal is elected by an electoral college composed of members of the federal parliament and the provincial assemblies. The college consists of 884 members, including 275 members of the House of Representatives (Lower House), 59 members of the National Assembly (Upper House), and 550 members of seven provincial assemblies. The weight of each vote varies according to the federal law, with a member of the federal parliament's vote carrying 79 votes, and a member of the provincial assembly's vote carrying 48 votes.

A total of 15 political parties and a few independent lawmakers were eligible to vote in the presidential election. The EC recognized the NC, UML, CPN (Maoist Center), CPN (Unified Socialist), Rastriya Swatantra Party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, and Janata Samajbadi Party as eligible to cast votes. 

Other parties eligible for votes included Janamat Party, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, Nagarik Unmukti Party, Nepal Workers' and Peasants Party, People's Front Nepal, Hamro Nepali Party, as well as independent lawmakers in the federal parliament and 550 provincial assembly members from across seven provinces.

Change in country’s political course

The victory of NC leader Paudel marks the beginning of a new political course in the country. The ruling Maoist Center had forged an alliance with the UML after NC denied premiership to Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. As per an informal understanding reached between the two parties, Maoist Center was supposed to support UML candidate Nembang in the presidential election in exchange of the UML’s support to Dahal’s prime ministerial bid.

However, the agreement could not last for long as the NC nudged Maoist Center to break the alliance and return to the alliance they had formed for the election. The alliance led by the UML had Maoist Center, Rastriya Swatantra Party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Janata Samajbadi Party, Nagarik Unmukti Party and a few independent lawmakers.

NC showed a positive gesture towards Prime Minister Dahal by giving him a vote of confidence in parliament. As such, Prime Minister Dahal proposed forging national consensus on a new presidential candidate — much to the chagrin of the UML.

As CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal did not accept his proposal to become a new president, Prime Minister and Maoist Center Chairman Dahal proposed Paudel as the new president during a meeting of the eight-party alliance that also includes NC. All parties immediately endorsed the NC candidate for the new president.

With the election of Paudel as new president, the country’s politics has now taken a new course. The UML, RPP, which were part of the government, have already quit the government and also withdrawn their support. Although the RSP has withdrawn from the government, it has yet to withdraw its support to the Dahal-led government.

Talking to media persons after the election of the new president, Prime Minister Dahal said the cabinet will get full shape after the election of the Vice President. There are chances of NC, RSP and JSP to join the Dahal-led cabinet, taking the country to a new political course.

Know your newly-elected president 

Ram Chandra Paudel is a prominent Nepali politician. He was born on October 14, 1944, in Tanahun district of Nepal to Hrishimaya Paudel and Durga Prasad Paudel. He received his primary education at Nandiratri Secondary School in Naxal, Kathmandu, and graduated with an intermediate in Arts from Saraswoti College, Kathmandu, in 1966. He then pursued his education in Sanskrit from Valmiki College, Kathmandu, and obtained a Master's degree in Arts from Tribhuvan University in 1970.

Paudel's passion for social and political activism began at an early age. He was involved in various student organizations, serving as the founder-secretary of the Himalayan Students' Union and holding various leadership positions from 1960-1967. He played a crucial role in the student movement through Nandiratri Students' Union, Ranipokhari Madhyamik Bidhyalaya Students' Union, and other organizations from 1985-1967.

Paudel's interest in democratic movements started at the age of 15 after the tragic incident that dissolved the popularly elected parliament and imprisoned the leaders, including Prime Minister BP Koirala in 1960. In 1970, he helped organize the Nepal Student Union and was elected as a Senior Member of the committee.

Paudel's political career began in 1961 when he joined the armed insurrection movement for the restoration of democracy and the seizure of Bharatpur/Chitwan. He initiated the Free Student Movement in 1962 and was elected as the President of the Saraswati College Student Union in 1966. In 1977, he was elected as a member of the NC Tanahun District Committee and was later elected as the Vice-President in 1979. He was also elected as the President of the Tanahun District Multi-Party Campaigning Committee in 1980.

Paudel's political career continued to soar, and in 1983, he was made the coordinator of the NC’s Central Publicity Committee and was appointed as a member of the Central Committee of the NC in 1987. He was elected as a Member of Parliament from Tanahun Constituency No. 1 in 1991 and served as the Minister for Local Development and Agriculture from May 29, 1991, to 1994.

Paudel was re-elected as a Member of Parliament from Tanahun Constituency No. 2 in 1994 and was elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives (lower house) in the same year. He served as the Minister for Home and Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal from 1999 to 2002. In 2006, he was made the coordinator of the Peace Secretariat that included representatives from top political parties and served as the Minister for Peace and Reconstruction from 2007 to 2008.

Paudel was elected as a Member of Constituent Assembly from Tanahun Constituency No. 2 in 2008 and was elected as the Parliamentary Party Leader of Nepali Congress in the same year. He was also elected as the Vice-President of Nepali Congress's Central Committee in 2007. He served as the Acting President of the Nepali Congress Party after the demise of Sushil Koirala. Poudel was elected as a member of Constituent Assembly from Tanahun Constituency 2 in the CA election held in 2013 and elected again as a member of the House of Representatives (HoR) in the 2022 election.

Paudel is recognized as both a social thinker and experimenter, known for his leadership marked by a simple lifestyle and high ideals. He has maintained a clean image and is an advocate for democratic socialism in the country. Within the NC, Paudel has been regarded as a moderate leader and coordinator. Paudel played a crucial role as a political negotiator, instrumental in the historic negotiation that brought the former rebel CPN (Maoist) into mainstream politics. He is recognized as a drafter of the 12-point historic agreement reached with the Maoist party.

Throughout his political career, Paudel has been a tireless fighter for democracy in the country, and as a result, has been incarcerated and put under house arrest numerous times. He was arrested several times for his involvement in the student movement that sought to restore democracy in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. After King Gyanendra Shah assumed direct control in 2002, Paudel was placed under house arrest. During the movement to restore democracy in 2006, Paudel was again arrested several times and placed under house arrest.

In addition to his political contributions, Paudel has authored several books advocating for social democracy in the country. He has written extensively on the NC's vision, agricultural revolution, and socialism. Most recently, Paudel was awarded the state honor "Order of the Rising Sun" by the Japanese government. Paudel is married to Sabita Paudel and has four daughters and a son.

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