Talks among Nepal's three major parties have failed to resolve a worsening political crisis. That means the largest party in parliament, the Maoists, will begin a potentially-crippling general strike Sunday that will shut down nearly all businesses nationwide.
Maoist deputy leader Baburam Bhattarai told VOA News talks with the Nepali Congress and United Marxist Leninist parties have failed because Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal will not immediately quit. "Mainly this government should first resign, then pave the way for a national unity government. But they were not prepared for that so that was the stumbling (block), so we couldn't reach to an agreement," he said.
Nepali Congress general secretary Bimalendra Nidhi, speaking to VOA, blames the Maoists for the failure of the negotiations. He said they rejected a "package solution" that would have discussed the process for integrating the former armed cadres into the Army and the looming May 28th deadline for writing a new constitution.
"They did not want the package solution. They simply wanted the resignation of the prime minister and then only they wanted to enter into other issues. That is why today's meeting could not get any result," he said.
While political negotiations were underway Saturday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets for a Maoist-sponsored May Day march and rally, demanding Prime Minister Nepal's resignation.
The beleaguered prime minister, in a nationwide broadcast, responded to the protestors, saying he would not quit. Mr. Nepal says a continuation of his government is critical at this juncture and it should not succumb to tactics of intimidation, violence and strikes.
Meanwhile, the top Maoist leader is predicting the government will yield to his party's demand to quit, within days. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, told VOA News he, as chairman of the United Communist party of Nepal-Maoist, will then return as prime minister. "Our party is the single largest party of the constituent assembly therefore automatically, naturally we should have every right to lead the government. And as far as the question of the individual is concerned our party has decided the chairman, himself, would lead the government," he said.
Prachanda, as prime minister last year, took the Maoists out of the government in a dispute about the leadership of the army and how to integrate thousands of former Maoist guerillas into the military.
Analysts fear if the political crisis cannot be resolved in Nepal, one of the world's poorest countries, it could lead to a resurgence of civil war.