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Nepal’s Ex-Rebel Chief ‘Prachanda’ Becomes New Prime Minister

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After last month’s election resulted in a hung parliament, a former Maoist guerilla who oversaw a ten-year uprising against Nepal’s Hindu monarchy was named prime minister for a third time on Sunday in an alliance with the main opposition.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, still famous by the name de guerre ‘Prachanda’, which literally translates to being “terrible” or “fierce”, will be at the helm of the new government for the first half of the five-year term. The main opposition Communist Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) party and some other smaller groups will be supporting him, said party officials. 

“He has been appointed and commands the support of a big majority of parliament,” Tika Dhakal, an aide to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari told British news agency Reuters.

In the new government’s 5-year term, Prachanda will leave his new position, which he took over from Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress party, for the UML which will command the office in 2025.

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

The formation of the new coalition took place after the 68-year-old Nepal’s prime minister quit the ruling alliance led by Deuba of the Nepali Congress party. After he walked out, Prachanda was not supported by Deuba.

Prachanda took a U-turn from his earlier pledge in November of keeping the old alliance intact for the coming many years, which he took while campaigning with Deuba. 

Prachanda’s Maoist Centre party bagged 32 seats in the 275-member House of Representatives. The UML won 78 seats, and smaller factions will control the remainder, which is needed for the 138-majority.

Nepali Congress party would be the main opposition with 89 seats. 

According to the analysts, Prachanda would not be able to give the needed stability as he will be surrounded by many coalition partners. His tenure will pose him with serious economic challenges.

This is the greatest level of inflation in six years, at over 8%. Being sandwiched between China and India, Nepal also has to deal with declining foreign exchange reserves and a growing reliance on imports of essential products.

“It is unlikely for the economy to grow as political instability will spook investment and businesses,” former central bank governor Deependra Bahadur Kshetri told Reuters.

Since 2008, after the 239-year-old monarchy ended, Nepal has witnessed 10 new governments.

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