A key communist party has pulled out of Nepal’s ruling coalition, forcing Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to seek a vote of confidence in parliament, reports said.
The Communist Party of Nepal, also known as Unified Marxist Leninist or UML, the biggest party in the ruling coalition, was angered by Dahal’s decision to back an opposition candidate in next week’s presidential election.
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It is the third party to withdraw from the government since it was formed in December, after no party managed to secure a majority in the November parliamentary elections.
Political turmoil and frequent changes in government are nothing new in Nepal, where 11 different governments have ruled since the Himalayan nation abolished its 239-year monarchy in 2008 and became a republic.
A former Maoist rebel leader, Dahal, who goes by his nom de guerre Prachanda, has held the post three times. But it was not clear if he would manage to stay in power.
The constitution says he would have to seek a vote of confidence within a month to secure the support of the majority of the 275 members in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament.
Prachanda recently got the backing of the opposition Nepali Congress party, the largest group in parliament, after agreeing to back their candidate for president.
In December, he formed a seven-party coalition comprising of his Maoist Centre party, the UML and five other smaller groups.
Last week, Prachanda infuriated the UML by pledging support for the Nepali Congress party’s presidential candidate, Ram Chandra Paudel.
Prachanda had earlier agreed to support a UML candidate for the presidency, according to politicians in the coalition.
Members of both houses of parliament and members of seven provincial assemblies will cast their votes on March 9 to elect the president – a largely ceremonial position, though it can play a key role during political crises.
Bishnu Paudel, deputy prime minister in charge of finance and senior UML leader, said on Monday he and all eight ministers of his party will resign as Prachanda failed to “honour the consensus” that was reached while forming the government.
“We’ll also withdraw support to the coalition government,” Paudel earlier told Reuters news agency after a party meeting.
Four ministers, including a deputy prime minister from another party, also quit the government over the weekend due to the same issue.
Political analysts said Prachanda, whose party controls 32 seats in the 275-member parliament, must face a confidence vote within 30 days. He is likely to win that vote with support from the Congress party, and form a new coalition that includes Congress and other smaller groups.
Prachanda has worked with the Congress before, and political analysts say the Maoist leader is more comfortable with the party than he is with the UML.