Nepal's new president sworn in as PM fights to stay in power

Nepal's newly elected president took the oath of office on Monday, days after he was backed by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal who is scrambling to remain in power.

Ram Chandra Poudel, the 78-year-old president, is with the opposition Nepali Congress party, but Dahal supported him for the largely ceremonial post over a candidate from his key coalition partner CPN (UML) during last week's parliamentary vote.

This decision last month cost him the support of CPN (UML), and the former Maoist rebel-turned-prime minister is expected to face a vote of confidence.

The parliamentary strife comes just three months after Dahal took up the premiership in December.

To get the top job, he had broken an alliance with Nepali Congress -- the largest political party -- and joined hands with the CPN (UML) and six other groups.

But barely three months since he took office, Dahal has lost not only his key coalition partner but ministers from two other parties have also withdrawn.

Dahal may now revive his alliance with Nepali Congress to stay in power.

"It was convenient for Dahal to create this alliance to become the prime minister," Biswas Baral, editor of The Kathmandu Post, told AFP.

"But he realises that an alliance with the Nepali Congress gives him the best chance to ensure the longevity of his post."

Dahal is also facing a Supreme Court hearing on a petition to arrest him and investigate his role in the deaths during the decade-long civil war that ended in 2006.

Better known by his nom de guerre Prachanda or "the fierce one", Dahal hid out for years in the jungle during Nepal's 1996-2006 civil war, which killed nearly 17,000 people and led to the end of the monarchy.

Since then, brittle alliances have been struck between Nepal's three dominant parties -- Nepali Congress, CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist).

For example, CPN (UML)'s leader KP Sharma Oli aided Dahal -- who is with CPN (Maoist) -- in his bid for the prime minister's post despite a previous feud between the two.