KATHMANDU: Thousands of supporters of Nepal’s former Maoist rebels began gathering in Kathmandu on Thursday for a May Day protest rally to press for a return to power.
The Maoists say it will be the biggest demonstration since they quit the government last year. Supporters, many dressed in red, are housed in hundreds of schools and are being provided training on how to use sticks as well as martial arts. The former guerrillas headed a coalition government after a surprise win in the election for a special constituent assembly in 2008, a body tasked to prepare a new constitution that was part of a peace deal to end a decade-long Maoist civil war.
But they quit after the president refused to approve their decision to sack Nepal’s army chief in a crisis that has stalled the peace process and delayed the drafting of a new constitution. “The protests are to press for a new government based on the national consensus,” Narayan Kaji Shrestha, a top Maoist leader, told a news wire agency Reuters. “Since our party is the biggest in the constituent assembly we must be allowed to lead the new government.” The ruling coalition, a loose alliance of 22 political parties, says it is ready to take the Maoists on board but has so far has refused to let the former guerrillas head a new cabinet.