Page last updated at 09:46 GMT, Wednesday, 13 May 2009 10:46 UK

Q&A: Nepal's future

Maoist street protesters
Maoist protesters are angry over the PM's resignation

Nepal remains in political turmoil after Maoist Prime Minister, Prachanda, resigned in May following a dispute over the sacking of the head of the army.

The Maoists were unhappy after the president blocked the Maoist-led government's attempt to sack the chief.

Additional troops have been deployed in key areas of the capital, Kathmandu, amid almost daily clashes between demonstrators and security forces in May.

The other major political parties have been holding talks to try to form a national government with Maoist support.

Would a unity government bring calm in Nepal?

Much depends on whether the political parties can create a sense of stability amid continuing Maoist street protests over Prachanda's resignation. President Ram Baran Yadav has asked parties represented in the constituent assembly to stake their claim to form a new government on the basis of consensus.

But so far there are no signs of the major parties being able to bury their differences and join hands to form a unity government. In that case, a candidate who can command a simple majority in the 601-member constituent assembly will become the next prime minister.

It is likely that the Maoists, along with the Nepali Congress, the CPN (UML) and Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum will all have a major role in choosing the next PM.

What are the chances of the Maoists returning to violence?

Remote. That's because their leader Prachanda, while resigning from his post on 3 May, repeatedly said that his party was committed to the peace agreement signed in November 2006.

But Maoist leaders are saying that they won't allow anyone to form a new government unless their decision to sack the army chief is implemented.

The standoff could turn into street agitation and even anarchy.

Geo-political realities such as the toughening attitude of India towards the Maoists should prevent the rebels from leaving the path of peace.

What do the latest developments mean for the people of Nepal?

Nepalese people in general are frustrated and worried. They had hoped for a peace dividend after the end of the armed conflict but inflation has now touched double digits. Power outages, scarcity of drinking water and frequent shutdown strikes are common.

The law and order situation, especially in the southern parts of the country, is very fragile and unemployment is rising.

Where does the latest uncertainty leave plans to integrate ex-Maoist combatants into the Nepalese army?

The head of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), Karin Landgren, recently told the BBC that the peace process was now going through one of its most difficult periods.

She said that all activities (as envisaged under the peace process) were now stalled. That no doubt includes efforts to integrate and rehabilitate ex-Maoist combatants.

When will the new constitution be signed?

The constituent assembly has set a deadline of May 2010 to formulate a new constitution. There is a provision that all the articles in the new constitution must be endorsed by two-thirds majority of the assembly. In the present scenario, that looks unlikely, so the prospects for a new constitution remain in limbo.

How strong are the Maoists?

The results of last year's elections astonished everyone, including the Maoists, who had been expecting, at best, to be the third biggest party. Because of that, they had insisted that many of the seats be decided by proportional representation, rather than first-past-the-post. The Maoists emerged as the main party with 220 of the 601 constituent assembly seats but would have done much better without proportional representation.

Why did the Maoists suspend their armed struggle in November 2006?

The Maoists called a ceasefire after the now deposed King Gyanendra ended his controversial direct rule in April 2006 and restored parliament.

The king backed down after weeks of strikes and protests against his rule.

Political parties promised to work with the Maoists as a prelude to bringing them into government.

Why did the king back down and agree to reconvene parliament?

The short answer was the sheer size of the demonstrations against him - some of the biggest that the country ever witnessed.

Faced with this vast display of people power, the king had no choice but to back down or the country would have descended into anarchy, analysts say.

King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra was dethroned last year

Observers say with international pressure mounting on him and the mood among his opponents at home hardening, particularly after the deaths of a number of protesters at the hands of the security forces, the king had few other options.

The parliament that was in place up until the April 2008 elections effectively reduced the monarchy to a ceremonial role. It also ended Nepal's status as a Hindu state and turned it into a secular state.

Why did the king seize power in February 2005?

He accused Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's government of failing to win the support of the Maoist rebels for a deadline for peace talks and of failing to prepare the ground for elections in the spring of 2005.

However, analysts suggest the king might have been using these issues to strengthen his own role in Nepalese politics, perhaps seeking to create an absolute monarchy.

Whatever his intentions, his plans backfired and he found himself removed as monarch, having in effect catalysed his opponents and the rebels into forging peace.

How strong were the Maoists as a fighting force?

At the height of their insurrection, the Maoists were virtually in control of most of rural Nepal.

They were capable of launching enforced blockades of major towns and cities, showing they had the power to paralyse the economy.

In the cities, their support has never been strong.

What was the human cost of the conflict?

More than 13,000 people were killed in violence in Nepal when the insurgency began, many of them civilians caught in cross-fire with security forces.

Both sides in the conflict were frequently accused of carrying out human rights abuses.

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