Monday, May 4, 2009

New republic of Nepal threatened by constitutional crisis

How can Nepal's Maoist revolutionaries hope to accomplish more as an opposition party than as rulers of the impoverished Himalayan nation? That's the question this week after the newly democratic country descended into a constitutional crisis with the resignation of Prime Minister Prachanda. The capital, Kathmandu, is reportedly in turmoil with soldiers on the streets since Prachanda resigned after being told by President Ram Baran Yadav that he did not have the power to fire the commander of the country's army, according to the Reuters international news service. But no violence or protests have been reported since Prachanda's resignation, which leaves the opposition New Congress party to try to put together a new government. Prachanda fired Gen. Rookmangud Katawal on Sunday for alleged insurbordination and refusing to acknowledge the primacy of the national government. The Maoists, who fought a decadelong guerilla war against the monarchy before joining the political process last year and winning the most seats in parliament, have called for street protests to put pressure on Yadav, also an army officer, who they say is trying to take over the government. In a televised speech to the nation Monday, Prachanda said "I have resigned from the cabinet," Reuters said. "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)," Prachanda said. The resignation threatened to unravel the 2006 peace pact that resolved the long-running Maoist insurgency, but opposition parties said they would try to form a new government. The Maoists came to power last year and raised voter expectations by pledging to create a "new Nepal" and dissolving the country's 239-year-old monarchy. But power shortages and high inflation stifled economic growth, keeping most of the population mired in poverty

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