Nepal leaders fix poll time, rescue parliament


Kathmandu : Nepal's deadlocked peace process inched forward again after the leaders of the ruling alliance agreed to hold the stalled polls in November and persuaded dissenting MPs to allow parliament to sit after remaining disrupted for nearly six weeks.

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The constituent assembly election, which will decide if King Gyanendra loses his crown, will now be held by the second week of autumn month of Mangsir, anytime between Nov 24-30, MP Amod Prasad Upadhyay said after the chiefs of the eight-party ruling coalition met at Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's residence.

The decision was taken after the international community began expressing concern at the delay.

A delegation of the European Union ambassadors in Nepal recently met both Koirala and Maoist chief Prachanda.

The Indian ambassador to Nepal, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, and his American counterpart, James F. Moriarty, also met Madhav Kumar Nepal, whose Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist was said to have been holding up the coalition meeting.

The Maoists, however, had a note of dissent.

While welcoming a fresh poll date as a positive step, the party, whose office was targeted with a attack earlier this week, said it feared that King Gyanendra, who could be dethroned by the poll, would try to sabotage it.

Reading out the note of dissent, Maoist MP Dinanath Sharma said since free and fair polls were impossible as long as the institution of monarchy remained, the eight parties should abolish the 238-year-old institution and declare Nepal a republic through a parliamentary declaration.

The meeting also persuaded the MPs who have been stalling parliament since mid-April to call off their protest.

First the Maoists and then the MPs from the Terai plains began disrupting the house. Though the Maoists later backed down, the plains legislators kept it up, demanding scrapping of a controversial commission formed to delineate new constituencies for the election.

As a compromise, the eight parties agreed to review some of the contentious recommendations made by the panel.

However, though the house reconvened Thursday, the opposition parties remained on the warpath, accusing the government of heeding only the demands by its own partners.

The biggest opposition party, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, is demanding a commission to investigate the killing of its sitting legislator, Krishna Charan Shrestha, in the Terai plains.

The law and order situation has been worsening alarmingly in the Terai, where armed groups have mushroomed, spreading violence and terror. At least two of them have said they would oppose the election, just as the Maoists did in the past.

Another serious drawback to free and fair polls is the increasing flexing of muscles by the Maoists, whose sister organisations have been carrying out extortion, violence and other unlawful activities with impunity.

The RPP and its splinter, RPP-Nepal, that is pro-palace, have had their public meetings attacked by the Young Communist League, the dreaded youth wing of the rebels.

Earlier this month, when RPP-Nepal tried to hold meetings in Pokhara city, the administration told it in writing that it would not be able to provide security in view of opposition by the Young Communist League.