Kathmandu, May 31 (Reuters): Thousands of Nepalis protested across the country today as Opposition parties kept up their pressure on the king for a new government of national unity, a day after the caretaker Prime Minister quit.
“We don’t want an arbitrary king,” said pamphlets handed out by chanting protesters, some waving red flags, as they marched peacefully through the narrow, ancient streets of the capital, Kathmandu.
After eight months of increasing protests, Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand — the 12th Prime Minister since 1990 — resigned yesterday to help ease pressure from Opposition parties on King Gyanendra.
Gyanendra appointed Chand, widely seen as the king’s man, after assuming executive powers and sacking Chand’s predecessor in October in a row over the timing of national elections.
Chand’s resignation brought fresh political uncertainty to the troubled Himalayan nation and cast a shadow over peace talks with Maoist rebels.
Gyanendra has asked the five parties plus two others, including Chand’s, to propose a candidate for Prime Minister.
But the main Opposition parties want to form a new interim administration themselves, or for Gyanendra to reinstate the parliament he dissolved in May last year.
The latest crisis comes two years after the crown prince massacred nine members of the royal family and then killed himself, bringing Gyanendra to the throne.
The second anniversary of the massacre is on Monday, according to the Nepali calendar, when the Opposition groups plan their biggest rallies yet.
Last week, as the world media spotlight focused on Nepal for celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the scaling of Mount Everest, at least 20 people, including ousted lawmakers, were injured when police broke up a rally in Kathmandu.
Newspapers on Saturday welcomed Chand’s departure.
“Lokendra Bahadur Chand may have been an insignificant political personality, but his departure will be far more significant politically,” The Kathmandu Post said in its editorial.
“It paves the way for initiating the much-awaited conciliatory process between the king and the political parties.”