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Election of popular Maoist leader as PM raises hopes in Nepal

The election of Maoist Baburam Bhattarai as prime minister has Nepal cautiously optimistic that the country may have found a leader who can end more than two years of political deadlock.

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New Nepali prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai (L) shakes hand with Nepali congress party vice president Ram Chandra Poudel after an oath-taking ceremony at the presidential palace Shital Niwas in Kathmandu August 29.

Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

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Maoist Baburam Bhattarai became Nepal's new prime minister on Monday. His election Sunday raises hope that the country may finally have found a leader who can govern and extricate the country from more than two years of political deadlock.

Mr. Bhattarai, third-in-command of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) that dominates the parliament, was elected on Sunday with 340 votes. His only rival, Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress Party got 235 in the 601-member parliament that currently has 594 serving members.

Analysts say Bhattarai, a key architect of a deadly 10-year Maoist insurgency, and also the person who played a pivotal role in transitioning his party from war to peaceful politics is the best suited to lead the country among Nepal’s politicians today.

“He was the face of the Maoist party during peace negotiations in 2005 brokered by India that eventually brought the Maoists to mainstream politics in 2006,” says Narayan Wagle, chief editor of the Nagarik daily.

Given the role of India in Nepal's politics, both as a military ally and as mediator during Nepal's lengthly civil war, Bhattarai's role can serve to assure India that integrating politically indoctrinated former Maoist fighters into Nepal's Army will not destabilize that army in the process, says Mr. Wagle.

Bhattarai is also known as a task man with clear priorities.

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