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Tens of thousands rally in support of Nepal’s embattled PM

February 5, 2021 GMT

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal’s prime minister, facing growing protests against him, gathered his supporters in a rally in the capital on Friday in an attempt to show he still has support.

Tens of thousands of people waving red Communist flags gathered at the heart of Kathmandu cheering and chanting slogans in support of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli.

“We love K.P. Oli. Oli is our hero. Oli for the prime minister for the next 10 years,” the crowd chanted.

A splinter faction of Oli’s governing Nepal Communist Party and opposition parties have been holding protests against him since he decided to dissolve Parliament on Dec. 20 and hold new elections on April 30 and May 10.

The splinter faction led a nationwide general strike on Thursday, shutting down schools, markets and transportation.

Both Oli and the splinter group claim to control the Nepal Communist Party and the issue is being disputed at the Election Commission. The splinter faction even announced that it had ousted Oli from the party at a meeting last month.

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Oli became prime minister after the party won elections three years ago. His party and the party of former Maoist rebels had earlier merged to form a unified Communist party.

Tensions, however, have grown between Oli and the leader of the former rebels, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also co-chair of the party. The two had previously agreed that they would split the five-year prime minister’s term between them, but Oli has refused to allow Dahal to take over.

The opposition has also accused Oli’s government of corruption, and his administration has faced criticism over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.