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Nepal's wartime guerrilla leader named new prime minister

December 25, 2022

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leader of the Maoist communist party, was backed by over half of the newly elected lower house of Parliament.

Nepal's former guerrilla leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (2L) gestures to media representatives as he leaves for the president's office to claim majority for his appointment as the new prime minister on December 25, 2022.
Known by his nom de guerre Prachanda or "the fierce one," Dahal has been named prime minister for the third timeImage: Dipesh Shrestha/AFP/Getty Images

The leader of Nepal's former communist rebels was named the country's new prime minister on Sunday, after elections last month took a significant turn in the Himalayan country.


Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leader of the Maoist communist party, collected the support of over half the newly elected lower house of Parliament. He will be sworn in on Monday at 4 p.m. local time (1015 GMT).

The November 20 elections pushed the ruling coalition of former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba out after it lost its majority. However, Deuba's Nepali Congress party remains the largest in parliament.

Meanwhile, Dahal's Maoist party has formed an alliance with the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), a party it has already aligned with in the past, alongside six others. The Maoist party and the UML used to be one party before splitting.

Dahal will preside over the government only for half a term, the Reuters news agency cited local media as saying. He is due to step down in 2025 to be replaced by a UML leader as part of a power-sharing deal.

Who is Dahal?

Known by his nom de guerre Prachanda or "the fierce one," Dahal led the Maoist communists' violent insurgency from 1996 to 2006. The 10 years of strife left over 17,000 dead and eventually led to the abolition of the country's monarchy.

In 2006, the Maoists abandoned their armed revolt and joined a UN-assisted peace process, turning into a political party that then came to power via parliamentary elections in 2008.

Dahal briefly served as prime minister, but quit a year later after differences with the president. He had another stint as prime minister that lasted from 2016 to 2017.

Prior to the November election, Dahal told The Associated Press news agency in an interview that his main goal was to give the country a stable government that would complete the full five-year term.

Why has Nepal been unstable?

Since abolishing its 239-year-old monarchy in 2008, Nepal has seen 10 changes of government. No government has completed its term in that period.

The current economic situation makes this government's position as shaky as that of its predecessors.

Street vendors in Kathmandu fear losing livelihood

Inflation is the highest in six years, exceeding 8% as the country struggles against dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The country is also increasing its already heavy dependence on imports of basic goods.

Disagreements among its parties are also impacting economic development. They have also delayed the process of drafting the constitution.

What has been Dahal's part in the political conflict?

Dahal himself has arguably contributed to the political instability, changing coat more than once.

In the 2017 parliamentary election, Dahal was allied with the UML before falling out with party leader Khadga Prasad Oli halfway through the five-year term over who would continue to lead the government.

A woman ready to count votes at a vote counting center of Kathmandu Constituency no 7 after a day of completion of the General Election 2022.
Nepal's latest election saw Dahal changing teams once again, adding to the country's political instabilityImage: Amit Machamasi/Zuma/picture alliance

Dahal exited the alliance and crossed over to the Nepali Congress party instead, forming a new alliance with former Prime Minister Deuba.

But this, too, fell apart after the November 20 elections, when neither leader could agree on who would become prime minister.

rmt/jcg (AFP, AP, Reuters)