Nepal's Supreme Court chief has been sworn in as interim prime minister, ending a 10-month deadlock. Four parties agreed to appoint Khilraj Regmi as a compromise figure. His task is to prepare elections in June.
Nepal is headed for elections on June 21 after being without a parliament for nearly a year, with the appointment of Khilraj Regmi, 63, as caretaker prime minister to replace the Maoist Baburam Bhattarai. Regmi is due to return to his regular role of chief justice after polling.
The election in June is aimed at choosing an assembly that will also complete the drafting of Nepal's first constitution since it abolished its monarchy in 2008. That was when Maoist rebels emerged as the largest party after 10 years of warfare that claimed 16,000 lives.
Regmi's inauguration on Thursday was conducted by President Ram Baran Yadav despite criticism over the mixing of law and politics from Nepal's Bar Association and several smaller parties, including a breakaway Maoist faction.
During the swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace some protesters clashed outside with police. Several protestors were injured.
Objectors to Regmi's appointment said they would file a legal challenge before the Supreme Court headed by its deputy chief justice.
Warning from opposition
A leader of the main opposition Nepali Congress, Chandra Paudel, warned after the cross-party deal was reached in Kathmandu that "if things get out of control, we will defer the elections until November."
The editor in chief of Nepal's Kantipur newspaper, Sudheer Sharma, said while the June timetable might be "overly optimistic" the decision to proceed to voting was a "breakthrough" after months of political squabbling.
Sharma said critics of the decision to form an interim cabinet comprising former bureaucrats and headed by the chief justice were "very vocal."
"I don't think this [new] government will be able to conduct polls by June," he said.
Nepalese business leaders say political instability has resulted in a scaling down of economic output and a surge in extortion and kidnappings by criminal gangs. Nepal's economy still depends largely on tourism and foreign aid.
ipj/mz (AP, AFP, Reuters)
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