The Maoists said they were mobilising protesters in a bid to force through the sacking of the impoverished Himalayan nation\’s top general after the president blocked the move, igniting a constitutional crisis.


The collapse of the ultra-leftists\’ administration after just eight months in elected office leaves Nepal without an effective government and threatens a 2006 peace deal that ended a decade of civil war which left 13,000 dead.

A group of more than 20 political parties, including the Nepali Congress and the centre-left UML — the second and third-largest in parliamant — met Tuesday and agreed to try and form a “national government” with the support of the Maoists.

“The meeting was boycotted by the Maoists but we are trying to bring them in the table to forge a consensus,” said UML leader Shankar Pokhrel.

Maoist leader Prachanda announced Monday he was quitting as premier after his decision to sack the army chief, a longtime rival, was vetoed by President Ram Baran Yadav.

Prachanda\’s supporters on Tuesday kicked off what they vow will be a massive campaign of civil disobedience. “We are planning protests in different parts of the Kathmandu valley,” said Uma Subedi, secretary of the Maoists\’ feared youth wing, the Young Communist League.

“We will launch regular protests until the president takes back his decision.” In central Kathmandu, at least 3,000 Maoists were on the streets, waving red flags and blocking traffic.

They chanted slogans including “President Resign” and “Long Live Maoists”, under the watch of large numbers of riot police.

Protests by Maoist lawmakers also disrupted proceedings in the national parliament and Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said the protests will escalate “unless the president apologises.”

The Maoists tried to sack General Rookmangud Katawal for refusing to integrate 19,000 former Maoist fighters currently confined to UN-supervised camps into the regular army, as stipulated by the peace accord.

The army views the guerrillas as politically indoctrinated, and also accuses the Maoists of not fulfilling commitments to dismantle the paramilitary structure of the dreaded youth wing.

Prachanda, however, has argued that the dispute is merely part of a wider campaign to undermine his democratically elected government, which was formed after the ex-rebels scored a surprise win in landmark polls last year.

The resignation of Prachanda — whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal but who goes by a nom-de-guerre meaning “fierce one” — now leaves the landlocked nation and world\’s newest republic in political limbo.

Officials said the president had asked Prachanda to stay on as a caretaker premier until Saturday, when he wants a new government to be formed.

In last year\’s elections, the Maoists won 40 percent of the seats in an interim assembly — making them the largest single party but short of an absolute majority to govern alone.

Even if the other parties can get the numbers to command a majority, a coalition without the Maoists would be fragile.

Diplomats have also warned that it could marginalise the ex-rebels. The political process is further complicated because Nepal\’s new, post-royal constitution has yet to be written.

The United Nations, which has been monitoring Nepal\’s peace process, has called for “restraint and political consensus”, while a statement from the European Union voiced “serious concern” over the crisis.