Nepal army chief row: After PM, Prez to go next?

Nepal army chief row: After PM, Prez to go next?

Out-of-power Maoists started a fresh battle against the President, army chief.



Kathmandu: With Nepal's first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda exiting from power on Monday following a protracted bitter row with army chief General Rukmanga Katawal, is it now the turn of Nepal's first President Ram Baran Yadav to go?

The 61-year-old former health minister became embroiled in the dispute after he allegedly stepped out of his constitutional limits and reinstated the chief of the army, who had been sacked on Sunday by the ruling Maoist party.

The intervention made Prachanda resign in protest on Monday, accusing the President of trying to set himself up as a parallel centre of power.

Not to be outdone, the President's office also issued a press statement in reaction, saying he had the authority to reinstate the sacked general in his role as the custodian of the constitution and supreme commander of the army.

Now the out-of-power Maoists have started a fresh battle against the president and the army chief, asking for both to be removed.

The president's fate depends on the Supreme Court that on Tuesday began hearing a petition against him.

Inhured International, Nepal's oldest rights organisation, on Monday moved court, accusing the President of having overstepped his jurisdiction.

The single bench of judge Balram KC began hearing the petition that would have an important bearing on the unfolding political scenario.

If the court finds the president had exercised powers he does not enjoy as a ceremonial president, it would mean the exit of Yadav.

Should that happen, the mollified Maoists would be ready to join a consensus government or support the new government from outside.

If the court finds the president acted in accordance with his powers, the Maoists would keep up protests, which would badly affect the peace process and the writing of a new constitution.

A third scenario could be the president tendering his resignation and providing a way out, just as Prachanda's resignation did.

Nepal's major parties are happy to leave the decision to the apex court.

While the Nepali Congress, the second largest party after the Maoists, says it supports the presidential move, the Communists, who are the third largest, are divided on the issue.

Though the standing committee of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) said the step was unconstitutional, it is however not yet condemning the President, preferring to wait for the court verdict.

"Though there are questions about the legality of the President reinstating the army chief, we realise that it was done to resolve the growing crisis," said UML lawmaker Shanker Pokhrel.

"While we feel the Maoists acted unilaterally by sacking the army chief when it was not endorsed by any other party, we are happy to leave the issue of the president to the court."

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