Dozens detained protesting against Nepal parliament's dissolution

Kathmandu (AFP) –


Police used batons and water cannon Monday to disperse hundreds of people protesting in Kathmandu against the dissolution of Nepal's parliament.

Political tensions have been rising in the Himalayan nation since Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli dismissed the legislature in December, accusing members of his Communist Party of non-cooperation.

Oli has called elections for April and May, but protests have spread across the country of 28 million people.

Police said they arrested 26 demonstrators who gathered near the prime minister's residence to call Oli's move "unconstitutional" and demand the reinstatement of parliament.

Police spokesman Basanta Bahadur Kunwar told AFP the 26 were detained after a clash as demonstrators moved towards a restricted area near the residence.

Police used batons and water cannons to disperse the crowd of about 500, witnesses said. Several were injured.

"We were moving forward peacefully to demonstrate.. but (the police) used force on us without any warning," said journalist Narayan Wagle, who participated in the protest, as he later addressed a crowd.

The Oli government came to power in 2018 with a two-thirds majority, aiming to end years of instability and short-lived governments made worse by a devastating earthquake in 2015.

The government has since weathered accusations of corruption and criticism of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The dissolution of parliament came after months of clashes with former Maoist rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who helped Oli come to power when their parties merged in 2018.

The spotlight is now on the Supreme Court which is hearing more than a dozen writs challenging Oli's dissolution.