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Nepal's parliament elects Sushil Koirala as new PM

Nepal's fractious lawmakers elected veteran politician Sushil Koirala as prime minister on Monday, with the 75-year-old tasked with steering through a new constitution to complete the Himalayan nation's stalled peace process.

kathmandu: Nepal's fractious lawmakers elected veteran politician Sushil Koirala as prime minister on Monday, with the 75-year-old tasked with steering through a new constitution to complete the Himalayan nation's stalled peace process.

The silver-haired bachelor easily won a vote in the constituent assembly, which was elected last November in only the second national polls since the end of a civil war in 2006.

Koirala, from the family that dominates Nepal's biggest party the Nepali Congress, won 405 out of 553 votes cast after winning the support of the leftist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) at the weekend.

"The new government will help complete the task of drafting the constitution within a year," Koirala, who was once jailed over the hijacking of a plane in India, told lawmakers.

"We also expect assistance from our neighbours India and China as well as other friends to complete our responsibilities."

Since Nepal's first post-war elections in 2008, five prime ministers have served brief terms, the country has had no leader for long periods, and the constituent assembly had been perpetually deadlocked.

The first version of the 601-member body, dominated by the one-time rebel Maoists, finally collapsed in May 2012 after failing to agree on a constitution, leading to the fresh polls in November.

The Maoists, who traded their guns for politics after signing a pact to end the civil war, have been relegated to a humiliating third place in the new assembly with just 80 seats.

Koirala, usually pictured in his trademark black cap and glasses, is the fourth member of his extended family to become prime minister in Nepal's history.

He is charged with trying to unify and rebuild the country, whose economic growth has slid in recent years, forcing hundreds of thousands of Nepalis to migrate overseas for jobs.

"The government under my leadership will promote internal capital and external investment. We will create economic opportunities within our country to end poverty and unemployment," Koirala said in his speech before the vote to elect him.

Leaders from across Nepal's political divide have pledged to draw up the constitution within a year, after the assembly convened for the first time since the polls last month.

Observers say he faces a difficult task.

"Koirala has to address the concerns of more than two dozen parties within the house," Geja Sharma Wagle, a political commentator, told AFP.

"He also has to placate the opposition within his own party. People have high expectations from the government. So, Koirala will face several challenges," he added.

As part of the weekend deal to form government, the Nepali Congress has agreed to UML's request to hold fresh elections for top posts including for prime minister and president after the constitution is delivered.

The Maoists only agreed to be part of the new assembly in December after securing a pledge from the other parties to probe their claims that the elections were rigged.

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