Opposition asks Nepal PM to quit after army chief fiasco

May 4th, 2009 - 2:15 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 4 (IANS) Nepal’s ruling Maoist party’s dogged battle to oust the chief of the army, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, over alleged disobedience, has become more serious with the main opposition party Monday asking Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to resign after two of his allies parted ways with the government.

“The Maoist-led government has now become a minority government as two of its partners have quit,” said Prakash Man Singh, former minister and a senior member of the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC).

“So it has no moral right to stay on. Our party has decided to ask Prime Minister Prachanda to resign and make way for a consensus government.”

A nearly two-month battle between the Maoists and the army chief came to a head Sunday with the ruling party announcing the dismissal of Katawal.

But the announcement triggered widespread protests with two of the government’s own partners, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and Sadbhavana Party deciding to quit.

A second blow came from President Ram Baran Yadav who in a late night order to the beleaguered army chief asked him to continue with his job.

Yadav, who is the constitutional head of the government as well as the supreme commander of the Nepal Army, called the dismissal order “unconstitutional, illegal and without consensus”.

The president’s order to reinstate the sacked army chief has fuelled a fresh fight with the Maoists calling it a “constitutional coup” and warning they will seek his impeachment in the interim parliament.

While legal opinion in Nepal remains divided over whether the president, who replaced deposed King Gyanendra as head of state last year, can reject the government’s order, most experts are saying that the war between the head of state, executive and army sets a bad precedent.

They are advising the president to seek the help of the Supreme Court.

Short of majority in the house, Prime Minister Prachanda has called an emergency meeting of the cabinet in the afternoon. However, it remains to be seen if the two parties who quit will attend.

The minority government’s fate now depends on the remaining big party in the coalition, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF). If the MJF too decides to walk out, the eight-month-old first Maoist government of Nepal faces a humiliating defeat in parliament.

The former rebels however put up a brave face.

Narayan Kaji Shrestha Prakash, the new number two in the party, said there was no question of the Maoist government quitting while another senior leader, Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai, said his party was ready to face a no-trust vote.

After the cabinet meeting, Prachanda will address the nation, his third such address since assuming office last August.

Meanwhile, both the Maoist organisations and the opposition party’s sister concerns vowed to keep up public protests.

Though there was no immediate response by the foreign governments closely watching the succession of quick developments, the UN called for restraint.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal asked the protesters to “act in a peaceful manner and within the law”.

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