Nepal Maoists propose chief justice as new PM

Nepal's ruling Maoists on Thursday proposed that the chief justice be appointed prime minister and preside over parliamentary elections, calling it the only option to resolve a long-running political crisis.

The proposal was made by party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known by his nom de guerre Prachanda, at the Maoists' largest meeting since they toppled the monarchy in 2006 after a decade-long civil war and then took power in elections.

"In the meeting, chairman Prachanda proposed forming a government led by the chief justice of the supreme court," party spokesman Agni Sapkota told reporters.

"The proposed administration will hold the elections for Constituent Assembly. His proposal was approved by the delegates."

In-fighting, including a split in the party last year, has confounded efforts to draw up a post-war constitution spelling out how Nepal should be run as a modern, democratic republic.

An interim assembly elected for the task was dissolved in May last year and elections promised for November were shelved amid quarrelling among the main parties over who should lead a national unity government into the vote.

The Maoists now lead Nepal as the major partner in a fragile caretaker coalition that is carrying out the most essential tasks of government but has no popular mandate to make fundamental policy decisions.

Inaugurating the convention on Saturday, Dahal had said the Maoists would step down from the government and offered to give up leadership to an independent prime minister.

"We know that the constitution doesn't have a provision whereby a chief judge can lead such a government. But we are sure that the opposition parties will agree on this," Sapkota said.

"If this doesn't work, there's no other option. This is the last option. The opposition parties should come up with a better alternative. If there's none, we will launch a nationwide movement to sensitise people about the issue.

The introduction of a republican constitution and elections were key conditions of a deal that ended the civil war in which more than 16,000 died.

But the transition to democracy has been beset by the ethnic, caste, religious and ideological differences that have made agreement among the country's powerbrokers impossible.

While the Maoists want the creation of up to 14 states named after ethnic groups, their rivals say the plan would fuel unrest.

The convention in the southern industrial town of Hetauda is due to wrap up on Thursday night having gone a day over schedule.