AFP - Nepal's parliament chose a moderate leftist Saturday as the nation's new premier following Maoist chief Prachanda's resignation three weeks ago when he failed in a bid to fire the army chief.
Madhav Kumar Nepal, a senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), described by analysts as hewing to the centre-left and communist in name only, was acclaimed as the lone candidate.
"It's a huge responsibility. I will move forward by building the politics of consensus among all parties," said Nepal, who is backed by an alliance of 22 parties that holds 350 seats in the 601-member parliament.
Nepal, garlanded by well-wishers after being chosen, is a veteran politician who has been a major player in the impoverished Himalayan country's politics for decades.
His election came after Maoist leader Prachanda quit as prime minister three weeks ago following eight months in office over a decision by the president to veto his bid to sack Nepal's army chief, a longtime rival.
The latest political crisis has raised fears about the future of a 2006 peace agreement which ended a decade-long Maoist insurgency that left at least 13,000 people dead.
The Maoists stormed out of parliament Saturday before the new prime minister was chosen, branding the selection process "a farce." But they promised not to disrupt the peace process, saying they were committed to civilian government.
Nepal, 56, was named the prime ministerial candidate by the 22-party alliance last week.
"He has been elected unopposed as the new prime minister of the federal democratic republic of Nepal," parliamentary speaker Subash Nemwang said.
The Maoists said they would boycott parliament under the new prime minister and vowed to keep up street protests until the president changes his mind on the army chief.
"The whole process of choosing a new prime minister is a farce," senior Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha told parliament before members of the 238-strong ultra-left party exited the chamber.
"We're boycotting this session and we will not support the new government," he said.
"But we will play an effective role in taking the peace process to a logical conclusion and draft a new constitution on time by staying in opposition," he added.
"We want civilian supremacy to be maintained and not military supremacy," Shrestha said.
The ex-rebels scored well in last year's elections, winning more than twice the seats of their nearest rivals, the Nepali Congress, Nepal's second largest party, but not enough for a majority.
The CPN-UML is the third-largest party.
The Maoists have filed a parliamentary motion against the president, saying the move to keep the army chief was unconstitutional and undemocratic.
The row between Prachanda's government and the head of the army, General Rookmangud Katawal, was centred on the fate of 19,000 former Maoist rebel fighters confined to United Nations-supervised camps.
Prachanda demanded that they be integrated into the national army to cement the peace process. But the army refused, saying the guerrillas had been indoctrinated by the Maoists and could never become non-partisan soldiers.