Nepal PM loses confidence vote amid surging pandemic

Nepal’s prime minister has lost a vote of confidence in parliament, ending his attempt to show he has enough support to remain in office.

Ninety-three legislators backed Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, while 124 voted against him in Monday’s vote. A new rival faction of 15 legislators within his governing party abstained.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari is expected to ask Oli to lead a caretaker government while parties in parliament seek to form a new government.

There was no immediate comment from Oli.

Oli’s Nepal Communist Party won elections in late 2017 and he was chosen to be prime minister by parliament in early 2018. An earlier split in his party in March had already weakened him, forcing him to lead a minority government, and a new split emerged this week.

He sought a vote of confidence in an attempt to demonstrate he had enough support to stay in power.

Oli has been criticised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with the Himalayan nation recently reporting its largest number of new cases and deaths.

Authorities have imposed a lockdown in most parts of the country since last month and are likely to extend it as hospitals report running out of beds, oxygen and medication.

The Himalayan nation on Monday reported a new 24-hour tally of 9,127 infections, 27 times the number recorded on April 10. The total caseload stands at 403,794, with 3,859 deaths, according to government data.

Oli became prime minister after his party merged with another communist party composed of former Maoist rebels, winning elections three years ago.

He became involved in a power struggle, however, with the leader of the former rebels, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also co-chair of the party.

Oli has refused to allow Dahal to succeed him as prime minister or lead the party, despite an earlier agreement to do so, causing divisions within the party.

“He has created instability and is behind the crisis the country is facing now,” Dahal said. “He does not have the confidence of parliament any more.”

Oli directed the dissolution of parliament in December and announced new elections this year. The Supreme Court, however, reinstated parliament and cancelled the new elections.

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