February 7, 2023

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Pushpa Kamal Dahal: Nepal’s ex-guerrilla chief becomes new prime minister

Eureka News Now —

A former Maoist guerrilla fighter who led a decades-long insurgency against Nepal’s Hindu monarchy was appointed prime minister for a third time on Sunday, in alliance with the main opposition after last month’s elections resulted in a hung parliament.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, still known by his nom de guerre Prachanda – meaning “terrible” or “savage” – will lead the new government for the first half of the five-year term with the support of the opposition Communist United Marxist-Leninist (UML) party and some other smaller groups, party officials said.

“He was appointed and has the support of a large majority in Parliament,” Tika Dhakal, an adviser to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, told Reuters.

Prachanda, who replaces Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepalese Congress Party, will step down in 2025, making way for the UML to take over, local media reported.

“That’s the understanding. The remaining work on the distribution of key other offices and ministries has yet to be worked out,” Dev Gurung, the general secretary of Prachanda’s Maoist Center Party, told Reuters after a meeting of the new coalition.

The new coalition comes to power hours after 68-year-old Prachanda’s surprise resignation from the coalition government led by Deuba of Nepal’s Congress Party. Deuba refused to endorse Prachanda for the PM post.

Deuba and Prachanda had both campaigned in November’s elections and vowed to keep the old alliance intact for several years.

Prachanda’s Maoist Center Party won 32 seats in the 275-seat House of Representatives. The UML has 78 seats and the rest, needed for the 138 majority, are controlled by smaller groups.

The Nepalese Congress Party will be the main opposition party with 89 seats.

Analysts said Prachanda is unlikely to bring stability to the country due to many coalition partners. He also faces major economic challenges.

Inflation is more than 8%, the highest in six years. Nepal, wedged between China and India, is also confronted with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and an increasing dependence on imports of basic goods.

“The economy is unlikely to grow as political instability will scare investment and business,” former central bank governor Deependra Bahadur Kshetri told Reuters.

Nepal has seen ten changes of government since 2008, when the 239-year-old monarchy was abolished.