KATHMANDU (AFP) — Nepal's Maoists and mainstream political parties held a first round of talks Friday to set up a new government following the former insurgents' stunning win in landmark polls, officials said.
"The Prime Minister, Maoist leader Prachanda and top leaders from other parties have begun discussions on the formation of a new government," Jhalanath Khanal, a senior leader from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) told AFP.
The ex-rebels overturned all predictions for the April 10 polls winning 220 of the 601-seats in the constituent assembly -- more than twice the number of their nearest rivals and pre-election favourites, the Nepali Congress.
"People have given us a clear mandate to lead the new government and we are hoping to reach consensus with the other parties," Dinanath Sharma, a senior Maoist leader told AFP.
The world's last Hindu monarchy is set to be abolished in the first meeting of the constituent assembly which is expected to take place in coming weeks. The fiercely republican Maoists want to see the end of the 240-year-old institution as soon as possible.
"We are confident that the country will be declared a republic within 21 days. No one should doubt this," said Sharma.
Friday's talks concluded with agreement that the first meeting of the constitution-drafting assembly will be held in the last week of May.
"The top leaders agreed to call the first meeting of the constituent assembly between May 25 and 28," Bimalendra Nidhi, general secretary of Nepali Congress party told AFP after the three-hour meeting.
"The responsibility of announcing the exact date has been given to outgoing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala," Nidhi said.
The Maoists and political parties failed however to agree Friday on the formation of a new government, but some progress was made, the Congress official said.
"A task force of leaders from the Maoists and other parties has been formed in order to decide on the formation of the new coalition government. Talks will continue in the days ahead," said the official from the Nepali Congress.
The Maoists fought a decade-long civil war that left at least 13,000 people dead, but they now say they are prepared to work with their former foes.
"We understand that the unity between the political parties is important in transforming the country into a republic," Sharma added.
"The big parties like the Congress and CPN (UML) should stop having doubts about our commitment to democracy."
Debate has raged in the mainstream parties about whether to join a coalition led by the Maoists.
"Our party has not yet decided whether to join the new government under the Maoists. They need to improve their behaviour as their attacks on other political parties have not stopped," said Congress official Nidhi.
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