Ex-Maoist rebel sworn in as Nepal's new PM

The deputy leader of Nepal's former Maoist rebels took the oath of office Monday as the new prime minister and began forming a government that will attempt to complete the country's contentious and long-delayed peace process.

Baburam Bhattarai of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won a majority of votes in an election in parliament on Sunday with the support of an alliance of smaller parties. He named a leader of the alliance, Bijaya Gachchedar, as deputy prime minister and home minister but said he was still negotiating over other Cabinet positions.

Bhattarai, 57, is the second-highest leader of the Maoists, who fought government troops for 10 years until 2006 demanding political reforms and an end to the centuries-old monarchy. They then joined mainstream politics and won the largest number of seats in 2008 parliamentary elections, becoming the country's largest party.

Bhattarai, who has a doctorate from Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, remained in hiding during the bloody revolt but is believed to be the chief planner of the Maoists' strategy, both during the years of fighting and in peace time.

He was sworn in Monday by President Rambaran Yadav in a ceremony at the president's office.

An alliance of parties representing the Madeshi region in southern Nepal supported him in Sunday's voting and was expected to receive a number of positions in the new Cabinet. Jayaprakash Gupta of the alliance said they had asked for 11 of the 26 ministries.

Bhattarai's major challenge will be to complete the peace process that began with the Maoists giving up their armed revolt. Thousands of former Maoist fighters are still confined to camps and are waiting for their future to be decided. There is disagreement among the major political parties on whether they should be integrated into the national army.

The country's constitution also needs to be written. The Constituent Assembly elected in 2008 had two years to finish the job. That has been extended twice, and the latest deadline is Aug. 31, which is likely to be extended again.

Bhattarai's predecessor, Jhalnath Khanal, resigned on Aug. 14 under pressure from the Maoists after failing to make process in drafting the charter.

Source: AP