Ex-Nepali guerrilla leader becomes new prime minister


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

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

“He has been nominated and has the support of a large majority in parliament,” Tika Dhakal, assistant to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, told Reuters.

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

“That’s the understanding. The remaining work of allocating other key posts and ministries remains to be settled,” 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 Prachanda, 68, surprisingly quit the Deuba-led ruling alliance of the Nepali Congress party. Deuba refused to back Prachanda for the post of prime minister.

Both Deuba and Prachanda had campaigned in the November elections pledging to keep the old alliance intact for several years.

Prachanda’s Maoist Center Party won 32 seats in the House of Representatives, which has 275 members. The UML has 78 seats, and the rest, required for the majority of 138, will be controlled by smaller groups.

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

Analysts said Prachanda was unlikely to provide stability to the country due to the many coalition partners. It also faces serious economic challenges.

Inflation is above 8%, the highest in six years. Nepal, wedged between China and India, is also facing dwindling foreign exchange reserves, with growing reliance on commodity imports.

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

Nepal has seen 10 changes of government since 2008, when the 239-year-old monarchy was abolished.

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