Nepal president orders vote for new PM

Nepal's president today ordered the country's parliament to elect a new prime minister after a deadline for forming a coalition government through negotiations passed with no progress made.

The country was thrust into political crisis last week when Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal abruptly resigned and pulled his party from the government to protest President Ram Baran Yadav's overruling his decision to fire the nation's army chief.

Dahal — leader of the former Maoist rebels who laid down arms three years ago — had accused the army chief of reneging on an agreement to integrate the former rebels into the army, as the peace process that brought the Maoists into the political fold stipulated.

Yadav had asked political parties to set up a new government and name a new prime minister by Saturday, a deadline party leaders had said would be impossible to meet.

"The parties did not reach a consensus and name a single candidate so the president has asked the parliament to choose a new prime minister by majority vote," Yadav's spokesman Rajendra Dahal said Sunday.

No date has been set for the vote.

The Maoists have been protesting both in the streets and in parliament since Dahal stepped down.

They have said they will only join the new government if the president reverses his decision on firing the army chief and have warned they will continue to demonstrate to block a new prime minister from being voted in. They stayed away from talks aimed at forming a new coalition government through negotiation.

It technically would be possible to form a government without the Maoists, but sidelining them could further rock the country's fragile stability — achieved after Maoist guerrillas ended their 10-year insurgency, laying down their arms and joining a political peace process.