Nepal will hold by-elections in April to fill six parliamentary seats that have become vacant since last year's elections, in what will be a popularity test for the ruling Maoists.
The Maoist former rebels won the landmark election in April last year vowing to create a "new Nepal" and provide relief to people, one third of whom live on less than a dollar a day.
But since forming a coalition government in August the former rebels have been criticised for doing little for the people and now face a crippling electricity shortage that has sparked anti-government protests.
The cabinet dominated by the Maoists late on Thursday fixed April 10 for the by-elections.
The vote will be a first indication of the popular mood about the former guerrillas who waged a decade long civil war which ended under a 2006 peace deal.
"Not just will it be a test of Maoists' popularity," Kunda Dixit, editor of the weekly Nepali Times, said. "But it will also be an indication of whether the electoral process is still characterised by violence and intimidation as it was in April 2008,"
The Maoists have been criticised by other political parties for failing to return property seized during the conflict to owners and continuing violence and intimidation despite heading the government.