KATHMANDU, Nepal – Nepal's parliament elected a veteran politician on Tuesday as the country's 10th prime minister in 11 years.
It is the fourth time that Sher Bahadur Deuba has been prime minister of the Himalayan nation. He is likely to be in power for only a few months because new parliamentary elections are to be held by January 2018.
Parliament speaker Onsari Gharti Magar announced that Deuba, head of the country's largest political party, Nepali Congress, received 388 votes, more than the required majority. A total of 170 lawmakers voted against him.
He will head a coalition government with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), whose leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was previously prime minister. Dahal resigned last month, honoring an earlier deal to swap the post with Deuba.
The coalition is also supported by other smaller parties that are expected to be part of the new government.
"I am committed to hold all three levels of elections," Deuba said, referring to local, provincial and parliamentary polls.
A second phase of local election to choose municipal and village council officials is scheduled for June 28.
One of Deuba's major challenges will be conducting provincial elections in seven newly formed states opposed by ethnic groups in south Nepal.
A new constitution adopted in 2015 carved Nepal into seven states, but months of protests against the plan by the Madhesi ethnic group left more than 50 people dead and blocked border with India, resulting in severe shortages of fuel, medicines and other supplies.
Deuba will need to negotiate with these ethnic groups, which are already threatening to protest the polls unless their demand for more territory in their states is granted.
Deuba also has the tricky task of balancing the country's ties with giant neighbors India and China. Landlocked Nepal has India on three sides and China on one.
Most oil products and supplies are imported from India, while China provides financial aid and investment.
"I want to assure both China and India that we will not let our territory be used against either nation," Deuba said.
China worries about anti-China protests by exiled Tibetans in Nepal, while India is concerned about the possibility of militants entering India through its open border with Nepal.
Deuba first became the prime minister in 1995 and ruled for two years. His second term was cut short by then King Gyanedra, who sacked him, calling him incompetent. During his third time, Gyanedra seized absolute power and removed him.