Nepal’s parliament has elected a former communist rebel leader to lead a coalition government as the country’s new prime minister, a move that will likely mean the continuation of political instability in the Himalayan nation.
Parliamentary speaker Onsari Gharti Magar announced on Wednesday that Maoist party leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal received 363 votes from politicians, with 210 voting against him. Dahal has the support of Nepali Congress, the largest party, and several smaller parties.
It is Dahal’s second stint as prime minister. His first tenure ended in 2009, when he resigned over differences with the president on the dismissal of an army chief.
Dahal led a communist insurgency against the government for a decade until 2006, when the rebels signed a United Nations-monitored peace agreement. More than 17,000 people were killed during the insurgency. He spent many years underground, and in 1996 announced an armed revolt against the government, demanding that Nepal, a constitutional monarchy, be turned into a republic.
In the years that followed, the Maoist revolt spread to many parts of the country, and thousands of Dahal’s supporters fought government troops.
The Maoists joined mainstream political parties in 2006 to force then-King Gyanendra to give up his authoritarian rule. The centuries-old monarchy was abolished in 2008. Dahal’s party then became the country’s largest, and he became the prime minister. He resigned in May 2009 because the army chief he had fired was reinstated by the president.
The new government is not expected to improve Nepal’s political fortunes, with the two main parties in the new government having little in common.
Those parties were archrivals when the Maoists were fighting against the government. The leader of Nepali Congress, Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was prime minister at the time, had announced a reward for the body of Dahal and other Maoist leaders.
Before the election, Dahal had addressed the House and said that he would try to lead the nation toward economic development while achieving national consensus.