Nepal's president asked the country's fractious political parties to form a new government Tuesday, a day after the prime minister resigned in a power struggle over integrating former rebels into the army.
Political leaders held crisis talks as they scrambled to form a new coalition after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's sudden resignation Monday plunged this Himalayan nation into crisis.
Nepal only emerged in 2006 from a decade of civil war that claimed thousands of lives.
Dahal _ the former rebel chief also known by his nom de guerre, "Prachanda," or "the fierce one" _ resigned after a dispute with President Ram Baran Yadav over the firing of the country's military chief. Dahal wanted him fired because of his refusal to enlist former Maoist rebels into the military, but Yadav overruled the decision.
The Maoists have vowed to launch demonstrations and shut down the parliament to protest Yadav's actions, and more than 3,000 supporters demonstrated in the capital, Katmandu, and burnt effigies of Yadav, a member of the opposition party.
"We want the president to resign," they chanted. "The president is a traitor."
In parliament, Maoist lawmakers chanted slogans denouncing Yadav and called for him to reverse his decision, forcing speaker Subash Nemwang to suspend the day's meeting.
Maoist lawmaker Narayankaji Shrestha said they wouldn't allow parliament to function until their demands are met.
Earlier Tuesday, police detained about 40 protesters who demonstrated outside the Yadav's house in violation of a ban against protests in sensitive areas, police official Govind Pathak said.
Dahal's Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is the largest party in parliament but it does not have a clear majority. His resignation pulled his party out of the ruling coalition and collapsed the government.
His former coalition partners now appear most likely to team up against him.
The parties have until Saturday to form a new coalition government, according to a statement issued by the president's office.
Nepali Congress, the second largest party, pledged their support to the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist), the third biggest party, said Ram Sharan Mahat of the Nepali Congress. Yadav is a member of the Nepali Congress party.
These parties would still need the support of other parties to form the new government.
The Maoists fought a bloody 10-year war before joining the political mainstream in 2006. They won the most votes during parliamentary elections last year and then abolished the centuries-old monarchy.
Many of the movement's fighters remain confined to U.N.-monitored barracks. Under a peace accord brokered by the world body, they are meant to be integrated into the military.
In his resignation speech, Dahal accused Yadav of "a fatal attack on the infant democracy." He claimed the president had no power to act as he did without the prior approval of Cabinet.
"The unconstitutional and undemocratic move by the president has pushed the country toward a serious political crisis," Dahal said.
However, Dahal's decision to fire army chief Rookmangud Katawal, who had resisted the enlistment of former rebels into the military, provoked a revolt in Dahal's coalition prompting his resignation as prime minister.