Nepal PM quits over army chief crisis

Nepal's Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda resigned today after a crisis sparked by his sacking of the country's army chief, plunging the Himalayan republic into political turmoil.

The 8-month-old Maoist-led government fired General Rookmangud Katawal on Sunday, accusing him of disobeying instructions not to hire new recruits and refusing to accept the supremacy of the civilian government.

But President Ram Baran Yadav, who hails from an opposition party and is commander-in-chief of the army, called the move unconstitutional.

"I have resigned from the cabinet," Prachanda said in a televised address to the nation.

"We made enough efforts to forge a consensus but various forces were active against this and were encouraging the president to take the unconstitutional and undemocratic step (of keeping Katawal in office)," he said.

The crisis is a huge blow to a 2006 peace pact that ended a decade-long civil war that pitted the army against the Maoists. The peace agreement ushered the Maoists into the political mainstream and they won an election last year.

Hundreds of riot police in full battle gear guarded major road intersections across the Nepali capital on Monday but there was no obvious sign of unrest or street protests.

Analysts said a new election was unlikely. Nepal's other parties appeared to be readying for a new government, with or without the Maoists.

The main opposition party, the Nepali Congress, and moderate communist party the UML said they could both try to form a new government.

"We want a government of national consensus," said Prakash Sharan Mahat, a Nepali Congress leader.

Some experts said Prachanda had pre-empted the inevitable end of his government by resigning.

Two government parliamentary allies withdrew from the ruling coalition to protest against the army chief's dismissal, leaving the Maoists with a thin majority and possibly leading to a confidence vote in the government.

"He has resigned because the government was headed to become a minority," said Lok Raj Baral, head of the Nepal Centre for Strategic Studies think tank.

"Now the other political parties will be busy to form an alternative government. But it is too early to say anything definitive now."

The challenges are immense. The Maoists came to power with huge expectations from voters won over by their promises of a a "new Nepal" in one of the world's poorest countries.

But a crippling shortage of electricity and the highest inflation in a decade have hampered economic growth, forcing industries to cut production by about 60 percent.

The resignation is an about-turn for Prachanda, who scored a surprise win in a special assembly election last year but did not get a parliamentary majority. The assembly abolished Nepal's 239-year-old monarchy and declared the nation a republic. Prachanda led an insurgency against the monarchy in the jungles around the Himalayan foothills.

Once he came out of the jungle, Prachanda transformed himself from a revolutionary insurgent into a wily politician, insisting that Maoists are not "dogmatic communists" and that globalisation and free markets were facts of life.

Now any new government might face strong Maoist opposition.

"Any new government will be shackled by internal divisions and a lack of strategy to take the political process foward," said Rhoderick Chalmers, Nepal head of the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group.

"The Maoists have said they are still committed to the democratic process. But what we expect is that Maoists are going to use various tactics, including street protests, to bring pressure on the government."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor