Ram Chandra Poudel of Nepali Congress was on Thursday elected as the new president of Nepal, in a relief to the fragile coalition government headed by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ as his gamble to break ties with the second largest party in Parliament – CPN-UML – seems to have paid off.
Poudel, a common candidate of the eight-party alliance that included Nepali Congress and Prime Minister ‘Prachanda’-led CPN (Maoist Center), received the vote of 214 lawmakers of parliament and 352 provincial assembly members. Prime Minister ‘Prachanda’ also congratulated the President-elect.
“Congratulations to my friend Ram Candra Poudelji for being elected as the President,” Nepali Congress chief Sher Bahadur Deuba tweeted.
Later, the election commission officially announced 78-year-old Poudel’s victory.
With support from eight political parties, Poudel’s victory was certain. His rival Subas Chandra Nebmang had the support of former premier K.P. Sharma Oli-led CPN-UML. This is the third presidential election in Nepal since the country became a republic in 2008.
The tenure of the current president, Bidya Devi Bhandari, will end on March 12. The total number of voters for the election of the President is 882, consisting of 332 Members of the Parliament and 550 members of the provincial assemblies of the seven provinces.
Election Commission spokesperson Shaligram said 518 provincial assembly members and 313 members of parliament cast their votes in the presidential election. Poudel earlier expressed confidence that the lawmakers will elect him.
“I am fully confident that the members of the federal parliament and provincial assemblies will vote for me. I believe that they will make the right judgment of my long struggle,” he said.
The outcome of the election comes as a relief for the government headed by Prime Minister “Prachanda” as Oli-led CPN-UML withdrew its support to his government following a rift over backing Poudel for the presidential poll.
The term of office of the President will be five years from the date of election and an individual can be elected for the post for only two terms.
Although the post of President is largely ceremonial, Nepal’s political parties have lately shown a growing interest in the post owing to the discretionary powers the Constitution accords to the post.
The Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), which has 14 lawmakers in the House of Representatives and 28 lawmakers in the provincial assemblies, decided to stay neutral in the presidential election. The Nepal Workers and Peasants Party also did not participate in the presidential election.
Born on October 14, 1944, in Bahunpokhari in a middle-class farmers’ family, Poudel joined politics at the age of 16. He became the founding central member of the Nepal Students’ Union, the student wing of Nepali Congress, in 1970.
Poudel was appointed vice president of the Nepali Congress (banned) Tanhu district committee in 1980. He was elevated to the party’s central working committee in 1987 and headed its publicity committee. He became General Secretary in 2005, Vice President in 2007 and acting president of the party in 2015.
He played an active role in the Satyagraha of 1985, People’s Movement part I of 1990 and People’s Movement part II of 2006. He spent 12 years in jail fighting against the autocratic Panchayat regime.
Poudel was elected to the House of Representatives from Tanhu district for the first time in 1991. Thereafter, he was continuously elected from Tanhu for six consecutive terms.
He was appointed Minister for Local Development in May 1991 and became Agriculture Minister in 1992. Poudel served as Speaker from December 1994 to March 1999. He served as Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Home and Minister for Information and Communication from 1999 to 2002.
Poudel served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Peace and Reconstruction from 2007 to 2008. He was elected Parliamentary Party leader of the Nepali Congress and leader of the main Opposition in Parliament from 2008 to 2013.
He was honoured with the ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ award from the Government of Japan in 2020. He has authored over a dozen books mainly about democracy, socialism and agriculture. He has also written dozens of articles in different newspapers and served as a journalist for a brief period.
Poudel has received Masters’ Degree in Arts with Nepali language as major subject and has also completed Shastri or Bachelors’ Degree in Sanskrit. He is married to Sabita Poudel and they have four daughters and a son.