KATHMANDU — The leader of Nepal’s communist party was named the Himalayan nation’s new prime minister Feb. 15, a day after the results of parliamentary elections were finalized.
Khadga Prasad Oli, who also served as prime minister in 2015, took the oath of office later Feb. 15, a spokesman for the president’s office said.
Oli will be leading a coalition government made up of his Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), which took the most seats in the November and December 2017 elections.
The poll results were made official Feb. 14 night, leading Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to resign earlier Feb. 15 after eight months in office.
Oli’s biggest challenge as prime minister will be balancing Nepal’s relationship with its giant neighbors India and China, as well as managing lingering internal strife stemming from the country’s new constitution and transition from a monarchy.
The 2015 charter divided the nation into seven provinces that are now governed as a federal republic but sparked violent ethnic protests in southern Nepal that left more than 50 people dead and shut down the entire region for months.
The Madhesi ethnic group was unhappy with the constitution, believing they deserved more territory than assigned for their province. India supported the Madhesi and choked the supply of oil, medicine and other supplies to Nepal, resulting in severe shortages and making Oli’s first turn as prime minister a difficult one.
Landlocked Nepal is surrounded by India on three sides and imports all of its oil and most supplies from India. It also shares a border with China.
The protests eventually fizzled out, but relations between India and Nepal hit a low point.
India appears to be seeking a better relationship with Oli this time around. It sent Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to Nepal earlier this month in an apparent move to woo the incoming alliance government.
Oli, 65, was born in a village in east Nepal and has been involved in politics since he was young.
He worked up the ranks of the communist party and was jailed a total of 14 years for opposing the autocratic rule of Nepal’s monarchs. The monarchs banned political parties until 1990, when street protests forced then King Birendra to allow political parties to contest elections and turned him into a constitutional monarch.
The monarchy was formally abolished in 2008.
Oli has a kidney illness and has made regular trips to Thailand for medical treatment.