Tue May 5, 2009 6:08am EDT
By Krittivas MukherjeeKATHMANDU, May 5
(Reuters) - Nepal's political parties met on Tuesday in a bid to form a new coalition after Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda resigned and his party threatened street protests over a crisis sparked by the army chief's sacking.
Any effort to forge a new government could require bringing together about two dozen parliamentary groups, highlighting the difficulties of alliance-building in a democracy slowly emerging from a decade-old civil war.
The Maoists, the biggest group in parliament with 40 percent of seats, vowed to take to the streets and disrupt parliament to protest against what they say is their ousting by the opposition. It was unclear if they would attend Tuesday's meeting.
Police detained dozens of protesters who tried to march to the high-security presidential palace in the capital on Tuesday, demanding civilian supremacy over the army.
Former guerrilla leader Prachanda resigned after his decision to sack army chief Rookmangud Katawal was not backed by other government allies and the president, triggering a political deadlock.
"We will not let normal proceedings of parliament go ahead until the president corrects his highly unconstitutional and objectionable step of keeping Katawal in office," Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said.
The Maoists accuse the army, on opposite sides of a civil war that ended three years ago, of undermining the authority of the civilian government.
The former rebels suspect that Katawal was loyal to the monarchy that was abolished last year and that he was backed by neighbouring India, the main regional power that critics say tries to meddle in Nepal's affairs
MAOISTS STILL HOLD SWAY
The Maoists have said they could consider backing a new government if Katawal is removed. Their numbers are crucial in a highly fractured Nepali parliament.
The main opposition, the Nepali Congress, is not bidding to lead a new coalition and has said it would back the moderate communist UML party if it staked a claim to form government.
The political uncertainty may delay the drafting of a new constitution, a key part of a 2006 peace deal that led to the Maoists laying down their arms before they won a 2008 election.
While the Maoists have warned of street protests, analysts said Prachanda's standing within the party had gone up since his resignation. But he could lose political ground if voters saw him as disruptive.
"They won't go back to the jungle but they're more than ready to take to the streets and paralyse any new administration," Rhoderick Chalmers, Nepal head of the Brussels-based think-tank International Crisis Group, wrote in India's Mail Today.
"They clearly command significant public support ... Prachanda's strongly worded but dignified resignation address was a claim to the moral high ground ... that may resonate with ordinary citizens," he said.
The crisis has also become a regional concern. India, already worried by troubles in neighbouring Pakistan and Sri Lanka and in the middle of its own general election, fears more political instability in another nearby state like Nepal.
India is Nepal's biggest trade partner and has great influence in the country, but it has also been accused of backing the army general against Prachanda. Some analysts say India was fearful that Prachanda was diplomatically edging towards China.
For ordinary Nepalis, the crisis was a blow to the optimism sparked by the Maoist election victory last year.
Nepalis found themselves struggling with daily power outages, high prices, massive fuel shortages and worsening public security and there were signs of disillusionment in the new democracy.
"The Maoists haven't delivered and they (the voters) see them as just like any other party," said Kunda Dixit, editor of the weekly Nepali Times. "But the people will not take it kindly if the Maoists are seen as obstructing."
Nepal has just abolished the monarchy which had last for 239 year-long last year. The democratic and constitutional regime is not mature enough, they will still face a lot of problems. The Great British has controlled Nepal for couple centuries until the end of WWII. As a landlocked country, north side by China and the other sides by India, the relations between these three countries are very close. The Maoist communism palys an important role of polity changing, it led the decade-long civil war and even got the power of the government. The sacking of the army chief lead to this demonstration. The Prime Minister Prachanda sack the army chief Katawal because of their different point of view, but Katawal got support from the other cabinet and the president. Prachanda resigned and criticized the president that is "unconstitution." This unstability of Nepali politics cause the nervous to India. Maoist in Nepal is led by Prachanda, his communist background make him be considered a pro-China. He even broke the tradition that the new Prime Minister would visit India as the first trip. This demonstration may occur the decade-long civil war comes up again, the internal unrest will keep going if the parliament can't elect a suitable new Prime Minister.