By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's Prime Minister K.P. Oli resigned on Sunday, nine months after coming to power and minutes before parliament was to vote on a no confidence motion he was likely to lose.
Oli's departure plunges the Himalyan country, plagued by political turmoil for years, into a whole new round of political uncertainty. This is the country's 23rd government to fall since a multi-party democracy began in 1990 after bloody protests, and the political tumult has weighed on business confidence.
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The no-confidence motion was brought by former Maoist rebels who propped up the Oli-led government last October, but fell out with him after accusing him of failing to honour a power-sharing deal. Oli's former allies also accused him of failing to address political concerns of Nepal's ethnic Madhesi minority, who live in the country's southern plains that border India.
"I have already submitted my resignation to the President when I met her before coming to the house," said Oli in a speech in parliament after being deserted by his allies ahead of the scheduled no confidence vote.
Nepal's neighbours, China and India, jostle for influence over the volatile young republic and are worried that prolonged political turmoil could turn one of the world's poorest nations into a haven for criminal gangs and militants.
Nepal has been flirting with crisis since September when it adopted its first republican constitution. The Madhesi minority rejected it, contending that the new federal states it created marginalized them by splitting their homeland.
The Maoists called off a bid to oust Oli back in May after he vowed to address the Madhesi concerns and rebuild many homes destroyed in earthquakes last year.
But Oli's critics said he did not do as he promised.
"This made us unable to continue to work with him," Maoist chief Prachanda, said in parliament on Friday.
Prachanda, who goes by his war nom-de-guerre meaning "Fierce", is the favourite to replace the 64-year-old Oli, who will remain caretaker prime minister until parliament picks a new leader in a process that could take several days.
President Vidhya Devi Bhandari is expected to give political parties seven days to agree on a candidate for prime minister on the basis of political understanding. If this fails, lawmakers will then attempt to elect a new leader on the basis of a majority on the floor of the house.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Robert Birsel and Raissa Kasolowsky)