Nepal’s prime minister resigns

Jhala Nath Khanal steps down after six months, leaving the nation bracing for another political crisis.

August 15, 2011|By Rajneesh Bhandari and Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Katmandu, Nepal, and New Delhi —

Nepal’s prime minister resigned Sunday, the third government to fall in three years, as the nation braced for another political crisis while still short of a peace agreement or new constitution.

Jhala Nath Khanal submitted his resignation to President Ram Baran Yadav after days of vacillation and mounting pressure from political allies and opponents. The move came as the nation celebrated Gaijatra, a public holiday that mocks politicians, social luminaries, the rich and powerful.

During his six-month tenure, Khanal made little progress in three key areas: establishing a peace agreement after Nepal’s 1996-2006 civil war; writing a new constitution; and integrating the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army, with its nearly 20,000 fighters, into the mainstream.

“The prime minister has resigned to pave the way for a national government that will be able to conclude the peace process and the new constitution,” Khanal’s office said in a statement.

Nepal has suffered protracted political paralysis. Although the Maoists are Nepal’s largest single political party, they lack the numbers to forge an outright majority. Other more conservative adversaries, including parties with historical ties to the monarchy, have balked at any compromise with the former guerrillas, accusing them of grabbing land and failing to relinquish violence as a political tool.

“There is no guarantee that peace and a constitution-making process will move in the right direction,” said Yubaraj Ghimire, a political analyst.

If lawmakers fail to produce a constitution by the end of the month, the parliament faces dissolution.

Special correspondent Bhandari reported from Katmandu and Magnier from New Delhi.

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