4 May 2009

Nepal communist party quits over army chief sacking

9:47 pm on 4 May 2009

A key ally of Nepal's Maoist-led government has quit over the sacking of the country's army chief.

The developments have plunged Nepal into crisis and should any more allies quit, it would leave the government in a minority and force a parliamentary vote.

The Maoists fired General Rookmangud Katawal, accusing him of disobeying instructions not to hire new recruits and refusing to accept the supremacy of the civilian government over the army.

The government allies said they were angry because the decision was made without consulting them.

The second biggest grouping in the governing coalition, the Communist UML party, said it was walking out. A smaller partner, the Sadbhavana Party, said it was pulling out too.

Hundreds of activists of the opposition Nepali Congress party burned tyres on the streets of the capital Kathmandu in protest against the decision. Rival Maoist supporters also rallied but there was no violence.

The UML's withdrawal leaves the Maoists with a slender majority in a 601-member parliament. The Maoists have 238 seats and are still supported by some small parties. The UML party has 108 members and the Sadbhavana Party has three.

In 2006, a peace pact ended a decade-long civil war that pitted the army against the Maoists.