Plunging Nepal into a fresh political crisis after a decade of war, the prime minister resigned Monday in a power struggle over his dismissal of the army chief.
In a televised address to the nation, the prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who goes by the name Prachanda, said that he was stepping down one day after Nepal’s president overruled his decision to fire the army chief, Rookmangud Katawal.
“I announce, through this address, my resignation from the Cabinet I have chaired so as to put an end to this difficult situation and create a positive environment for salvaging democracy, nationalism and the peace process that are currently at risk,” Prachanda, a former Maoist guerrilla fighter, said in his 13-minute address.
Clusters of people gathered in front of television shops in the capital, Katmandu, to watch the prime minister give his address as a continuing power crisis left many parts of the city without electricity.
Prachanda’s party entered into competitive politics after signing a peace deal in 2006, ending a decade-long Maoist rebellion. He became prime minister in August after four months of political wrangling; in May, the nation’s elected Constituent Assembly declared the nation a federal republic, ending 239 years of Hindu monarchy.
But despite the Maoists’ rise to power, over 19,000 of their former fighters remain restricted to U.N.-monitored barracks under a peace accord.
Prachanda, whose name means “the fierce one” in Nepali, wanted the guerrillas freed and integrated into Nepal’s security forces, as prescribed under a U.N.-brokered peace agreement. But the army chief resisted those efforts and sparred repeatedly with the government.
The disagreement over the army chief fractured the nation’s governing coalition on Sunday, and analysts said it raised serious doubts about the government’s ability to keep the ex-combatants in their cantonments.
The Communist Party of Nepal, a unified Marxist-Leninist party that holds the second-highest number of seats in the 601-member Constituent Assembly, pulled out of the government on Sunday, accusing the Maoists of acting unilaterally.
The danger now, albeit remote, is that the Maoists may pull out of the government altogether, threatening to immerse the country back in conflict.