Nepal republic turns one under shadow of dissent

May 29th, 2009 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 29 (IANS) Once unique as the only Hindu kingdom in the world, Nepal Friday celebrated the first anniversary of its transformation into a secular, federal republic under the shadow of dissent as the new communist government continued to cross swords with the former Maoist guerrillas.

On this day last year, the Maoists had joined hands with the communists and the Nepali Congress party to hold a historic election that resulted in the formal abolition of the nation’s centuries-old institution of monarchy and paved the way for the first Maoist government.

However, on the first anniversary of Republic Day, former revolutionary Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and his party were out of power over a spat with the army. They are now sitting in opposition, vowing to boycott the new government of veteran communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.

The rift between the Maoists and communists deepened Friday as the new prime minister laid the foundation of a martyrs’ memorial in a park at the heart of the capital, named after the former queen mother Ratna. The new cabinet has earmarked NRS 5 crore (NRS 50 million) for the memorial, which is to be completed by next year.

The gesture has enraged the Maoists, whose government had earlier promised to build the memorial at the Narayanhity, once the royal palace of the Shah kings of Nepal that became a national museum when the last king of Nepal Gyanendra vacated it last year.

While Maoist leaders are prophesying that the new government will not last beyond three months, the new prime minister faces an uphill task finalising his cabinet.

Though supported by 22 of the 25 parliamentary parties, Nepal, who was elected premier uncontested last Saturday, has been able to announce only a three-member mini cabinet so far due to continued squabbles among his main allies, the Nepali Congress and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum.

Nepal’s own party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), is also divided into two factions and the 56-year-old moderate leader has a tough balancing act ahead.

His coalition government faces the onerous task of drafting a new constitution by next summer. It is a doubly difficult task now with the Maoists again threatening to disrupt parliament if the house does not hold a debate on President Ram Baran Yadav.

The Prachanda government fell after it tried to sack the chief of the army, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, though its coalition partners, including Nepal’s party, objected. Its loss of face was complete after the president reinstated the sacked army chief.

Now the Maoists are calling for a debate and vote in the house to determine whether Yadav had breached the constitution by stepping into the row.

The UML is opposing a debate in the house, which is likely to trigger fresh Maoist protests.

Developments are expected during the weekend, with the chairman of the constituent assembly, Subhash Nembang, to decide if a debate would be allowed and Nepal expected to expand his cabinet by Sunday.

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