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Nepali Congress leader becomes new prime minister

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The leader of Nepal's largest and oldest political party was elected prime minister on Monday with majority support in parliament that is likely to ease the political instability in the Himalayan nation.

The president of Nepali Congress party, Sushil Koirala, 76, received 405 votes in the 601-member parliament. He was supported by the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), the second largest party, and some other smaller groups.

The declaration from Parliament Speaker Surya Bahadur Thapa that Koirala had secured the simple majority to be elected was followed by applause inside the assembly hall. Hundreds of Koirala's supporters stood outside the parliament building.

Koirala is scheduled to be sworn in by the president later Monday. He is also likely to announce a small cabinet and continue negotiations with other political parties to join his coalition government.

None of the political parties won a majority in the Nov. 19 national election, but the two largest parties agreed Sunday on a coalition government. It was not known if other parties will join the coalition.

"Our party will shoulder the responsibility to conclude the peace process and produce a democratic constitution," Koirala said ahead of the vote. "We will take the lead in preparing a draft of the new constitution."

The Himalayan country has stumbled through the last five years with parliamentary paralysis. A constitution was supposed to have been written by the last Constituent Assembly, which was elected in 2008 following the end of a 10-year Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of the centuries-old monarchy. But the assembly was riven by infighting and never finished its work.

Koirala, 76, has led his party for the past four years. He also spent six years in jail and nearly 20 years in exile in India because he opposed the autocratic rule of the king. Politicians hope the election of Koirala with support from nearly two-thirds of the members of the assembly will bring some political stability to Nepal.

"We will also work to include other parties in the coalition," said Jhal Nath Khanal, leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist).

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