Nepal’s ex-guerrilla chief set to become new prime minister

KATHMANDU (Reuters): A former Maoist guerrilla who led a decade-long insurgency against Nepal’s Hindu monarchy will take over as prime minister in alliance with the main opposition after last month’s election returned a hung parliament, party officials said on Sunday.


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


Prachanda will step down in 2025, making way for the UML to take over the office, local media reported.


“This is the understanding. Remaining work of distribution of key other posts and ministries is still to be worked out,” Dev Gurung, the general secretary of Prachanda’s Maoist Centre party told Reuters after a meeting of the new coalition.


Gurung said Prachanda would soon go to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to stake his claim for the prime minister’s job.


UML’s general secretary Shankar Pokhrel said the new deal “has opened up the way” to form the new government, more than a month after the elections.


The new coalition comes to power after Prachanda,68, surprisingly walked out of the ruling alliance led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress party. Deuba refused to back Prachanda for the prime minister’s job.


Prachanda’s Maoist Centre party won 32 seats in the 275-member House of Representatives. The UML has 78 seats, and the rest, required for the 138-majority, will be controlled by smaller groups.


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