Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nepal’s former Prime Minister Bhattarai dies at 87

KATHMANDU, March 5, 2011

Nepal's former Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, who led a popular movement to restore multiparty democracy in 1990, has died at age 87.

Mr. Bhattarai's physician, Dr. Bharat Rawat, told reporters that he died in the capital, Kathmandu, at Friday midnight due to multiple organ failure. He had suffered mainly from kidney problems.

Mr. Bhattarai was admitted to a hospital in Kathmandu last month with multiple health complaints.

He served as Prime Minister of the Himalayan nation twice — first in 1990 and again in 1999.

After multiparty democracy was restored in 1990, Mr. Bhattarai was appointed Prime Minister of an interim government comprising representatives from his Nepali Congress party and several communist parties.

During his nine months in power, he conducted Nepal's first free elections in 30 years and enforced a new constitution that guaranteed democratic rights in the country.

In 1999, he again became Prime Minister after the Nepali Congress party won elections. However, feuds in the faction-ridden party forced him to step down after nine months in power.

As Prime Minister, Mr. Bhattarai made official visits to India, Japan and the United Kingdom, and led the Nepalese delegation to the meeting of the South Asian Regional Cooperation in 1991 in the Maldives.

His strict anti-corruption drive gave him the image of a clean politician. His anti-nepotism stand also helped him gain popularity among the public.

Mr. Bhattarai spent nearly 14 years in prison for opposing the autocratic system imposed in the country in 1960.

The government has declared a period of national mourning. Mr. Bhattarai will be cremated on Sunday in Kathmandu.

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