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Nepal's opposition vows protests to topple PM

Nepal's opposition parties said they will team up to topple the government, as they accused the prime minister Wednesday of having no moral or legal grounds to stay in power ahead of new elections.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai's opponents say he lost his legitimacy Sunday when the term of the country's Constituent Assembly expired without agreement on a constitution. Bhattarai has said he will lead a caretaker government until another assembly is picked in elections he called for November.

The leader of the Nepali Congress party, Arjun Narsingh, said his and 14 other parties have agreed to hold rallies and street protests aimed at pressuring Bhattarai to resign. Protests took place in the capital Wednesday.

"We are not against elections, but we don't want Baburam Bhattarai to conduct the elections," Narsingh said. "We are demanding a new government that would have representation from all major political parties to ensure that the polls are free and fair."

Writing the new constitution was supposed to cap an interim period aimed at solidifying details of Nepal's democracy after the country closed centuries of royal rule and resolved a decade-long Maoist insurgency by bringing the former combatants into the political mainstream.

The assembly was elected in 2008 under a two-year term that was renewed four times as parties bickered over the details of a constitution, including whether states should be drawn to give regional power bases to ethnic minorities.

Its term expired Sunday after the Supreme Court rejected any further extensions, leaving the Himalayan nation with no legal government.

The opposition has claimed that rather than calling for fresh elections, a vote could been held on whether to allow the assembly to continue as a parliament.

Pradeep Gyawali of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) said Bhattarai's decision to let the assembly expire without such a vote showed he wanted to keep power in any way possible.

"This just shows that Bhattarai's intention was to continue in power without a legislature to check on him," Gyawali said.

Both Narsingh and Gyawali said they plan to meet again to finalize their protest plans.

Legal experts have said any plans for new polling should be made in consultation with the country's other political parties.