Nepal Premier stays on as political polarisation deepens

Despite announcing that he would step down by August 13 if there was no “progress” in the peace process, Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal showed no indications that he would resign till late on Saturday night. The Prime Minister's stand increased the political polarisation, with both rivals from his party and the main opposition, Nepali Congress (NC), accusing Mr. Khanal of “betrayal”.

The day began with a meeting among the ruling party, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), key coalition partner Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) and the NC. There was however no “breakthrough” on details related to the peace process, specifically the integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants. The meeting ended inconclusively with the NC demanding that the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) be invited for the discussions.

In the evening, ruling parties met Mr. Khanal at his residence and urged him not to resign. Mr. Khanal's press advisor Surya Thapa told reporters, “The coalition partners suggested to the PM that he should not resign unless there is an alternative in place as it would plunge the country into uncertainty and crisis. The PM listened to them, but he will take his own decision based on values, beliefs and past commitments.”

With no resignation till the evening, the Prime Minister came in for increased criticism. His colleague, UML general secretary Ishwor Pokharel said, “He must resign on moral grounds as he has already made a commitment. This would also be in accordance with the five-point agreement.” NC leaders said there was no ground to trust or work with Mr. Khanal in future. NC, which had been obstructing parliamentary proceedings, had allowed the House to function since Wednesday after the Prime Minister's written commitment that he would resign.

Political sources close to Mr. Khanal told The Hindu that he was in a deep dilemma. A close advisor, on the condition of anonymity, said, “He had thrown the resignation card hoping the Maoists would compromise on details of the peace process. But they are not in the mood to bail him out. NC also does not want a deal since it will allow the PM to stay on.” The source added that the Prime Minister may wait for a day or two, and if there was no agreement, resign in Parliament on Monday.

  • He had announced he would step down
  • Ruling parties urge him not to resign

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