KATMANDU, July 13 (Reuters) – The Nepalese president on Tuesday appointed veteran Sher Bahadur Deuba as prime minister, a day after the Supreme Court restored the parliament which was dissolved in May in a months-long political crisis.
Deuba, who has held the post four times previously, faces the immediate task of procuring COVID-19 vaccines and controlling the spread of the coronavirus which has infected more than 658,000 people and killed nearly 10,000 – figures according to experts do not reflect the true record.
“The new leader’s biggest challenge is to free every citizen from the suffering of COVID-19 by vaccinating them,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, a top leader of Deuba’s party.
More than 1.3 million people have received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and await a second injection as the government scrambles to protect its people.
Infections started to rise again in April and May, although they have stabilized at around 1,600 per day in recent weeks.
Deuba, 75, leader of the centrist Nepalese Congress party, will lead a coalition with former Maoist rebels and a party representing a minority community dominating the plains of southern Nepal.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari took the oath to Deuba, who was dressed in tight-fitting white pants, a shirt that was loose to the knees and a black boat-shaped cap.
Deuba appointed a small cabinet of four ministers and appointed Janardan Sharma, a former Maoist rebel, as finance minister, the president’s office said.
Party officials said the leader is due to name his full cabinet after the confidence vote he is due to win in parliament next month.
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered Deuba to be appointed in place of KP Sharma Oli, who failed to win a vote of confidence and dissolved parliament twice in recent months, which the court ruled unconstitutional.
Deuba, a staunch Democrat, will aim to end corruption and create the conditions for free and fair elections scheduled for next year after the latest bout of political instability, Mahat said.
But Krishna Khanal, who teaches political science at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, said Deuba had struggled when he was running governments before.
“The country has faced major crises every time he was prime minister in the past,” Khanal told Reuters.
Report by Gopal Sharma in Kathmandu; Editing by Alasdair Pal, Robert Birsel and Alison Williams
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