Nepal's second largest party in Parliament - CPN-UML - on Monday withdrew its support to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda"-led government following a rift over backing the main opposition party's candidate for the presidential poll, plunging the Himalayan nation to another spell of political instability.
"A high-level meeting of the party held under the leadership of party chief K P Sharma Oli on Monday decided to quit the government and withdraw the party's support to the Prachanda-led government," Bishnu Rijal, deputy chief of the party's central publicity committee, told PTI.
The prime reason for the break-up of the alliance between Prachanda and former prime minister Oli was the Maoist leader's decision to support senior Nepali Congress (NC) candidate Ram Chandra Paudel for the President's post.
Paudel is from the Nepali Congress, an opposition party, and from outside the ruling alliance. Nepal's Presidential election will be held on March 9.
The exit of CPN-UML may not immediately affect the Prachanda-led government, which is supported by the NC which has 89 lawmakers in the House.
As Prime Minister Prachanda violated the December 25 agreement while forming the seven-party coalition government and betrayed the Communist Party of Nepal-(Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML), the party took the decision to leave the government, Rijal said.
The UML ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bishnu Poudyal and Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Poudyal, have submitted their resignations to the Prime Minister. There were eight UML ministers in the Prachanda-led government.
Meanwhile, Rashtriya Swatantra Party led by former TV journalist Ravi Lamichhane has decided to continue its support to the government, said Biraj Bhakta Shrestha, deputy Parliamentary Party leader of RSP.
In the 275-member House, the UML has 79 lawmakers while CPN (Maoist Center) has 32. CPN (Unified Socialist) and Rashtriya Swatantra Party have 10 and 20 members, respectively. Janamat Party has 6 members, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party 4 and Nagarik Unmukti Party 3 members in the parliament.
With the three major parties, NC (89), CPN-Maoist Centre (32) and RSP (20), the government has support of at least 141 lawmakers.
Prachanda needs only 138 votes in parliament to continue as the prime minister.
According to constitutional experts, the prime minister must face a vote of confidence within 30 days.
"With the support from the Nepali Congress and other parties, the Prachanda-led government will survive even though it is required to seek a fresh vote of confidence," said senior journalist and editor of Nagarik daily Gunaraj Luitel.
"The Prachanda-led government is required to seek a vote of confidence in the Parliament after the major ruling alliance CPN-UML withdrew its support," said senior Nepali Congress leader Prakash Man Singh. "However, the government led by Prachanda will have no difficulty to survive the vote with the support from Nepali Congress and other political parties,” he added.
"Whether Prachanda will seek the vote of confidence before the presidential election or after depends upon the Prime Minister and the eight party alliance is working out a strategy on how to move forward in the new political scenario," Singh said.
Nepali Congress will certainly join the coalition government as the old seven-party alliance has already broken with the emergence of new eight-party alliance, said Singh, the former deputy prime minister.
The eight-party alliance includes, Nepali Congress, CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN-Unified Socialist, Nagarik Unmukti Party, Janamat Party, Janta Samajwadi Party, Lokatantrik Samajwadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha.
UML’s vice-chairman Bishnu Prasad Paudel earlier claimed that Prime Minister Prachanda used pressure tactics on the UML ministers to quit the government, which forced them to withdraw support, according to My Republica newspaper.
He said Prachanda warned that if the CPN-UML does not leave the government, he would immediately dismiss the ministers or even appoint departmental ministers without them, the report said.
He alleged that Prime Minister Prachanda demonstrated immaturity by stopping Foreign Minister Paudyal, who was about to visit Geneva, at the eleventh hour.
Paudyal, who is from the UML party, was scheduled to fly to Geneva to attend a high-level session of the UN Human Rights Council. However, Prime Minister Prachanda asked her to cancel the visit. This move by Prachanda riled the Oli-led party even further.
"We have taken this decision because Prime Minister Prachanda did not proceed according to the agreement of December 25 and exerted pressure on us to leave the government," Paudel said.
Prachanda, the 68-year-old CPN-Maoist Centre leader, was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the third time on December 26 after he dramatically walked out of the pre-poll alliance led by the Nepali Congress and joined hands with opposition leader Oli.
Prime Minister Prachanda's party, which contested the November 20 parliamentary and provincial elections as a partner of the five-party alliance led by the Nepali Congress, left the alliance after it refused to give Prachanda any of the two key posts --- the president or the prime minister.
Prachanda then forged an alliance with CPN-UML led by 71-year-old Oli to form the government.
Oli has claimed that while backing Prachanda’s bid for prime minister last year, it was agreed upon that the post of President would go to the member of his party.
Paudel also accused Prachanda of not wanting political stability in the country as he was not ready to honour the agreement reached with the party earlier, My Republica report added.
Meanwhile, Prachanda cancelled his first foreign visit to Qatar due to some "important political engagements" at home, officials said on Monday, amidst a threat to the stability of his coalition government ahead of the presidential election.
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