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Maoists rule out polls before Nepal king’s ouster

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : Nepal’s Maoists, who are no longer part of the government, Wednesday ruled out the possibility of holding the constituent assembly election before the ouster of King Gyanendra.

Even as prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala expressed hope that the new session of parliament, scheduled to start from Monday, would take the halted peace process forward by deciding fresh dates for the twice-stalled election, Maoist chief Prachanda said there would be no polls before the abolition of Nepal’s two-century-old crown.

Prachanda is currently touring the Dang district in mid-western Nepal, a Maoist stronghold, to address the training session of a sister concern of the Maoists, the Tharuwan Rajya Samiti.

At an interaction with the pro-Maoist forum Revolutionary Journalists’ Federation, Prachanda said his party would not return to the government or take part in the constituent assembly election till King Gyanendra was dethroned and Nepal declared a republic, a private radio station said.

If the coming session of parliament failed to do that, the Maoist supremo warned that his party would start movements through the house — where the Maoists are the second largest party — as well as the street, Gorkha FM reported.

Prachanda’s assertion comes after a battle royale in parliament where the Maoists, supported by their communist allies, got a simple majority of the MPs to support their demand for the immediate abolition of monarchy and a new election system that is likely to improve their chances at the hustings.

However, while the rebels are hailing the parliament vote as their victory, technically, Koirala still has the upper hand over them.

According to Nepal’s new constitution that was promulgated this year, only an elected constituent assembly can decide the fate of beleaguered King Gyanendra.

If the Maoists want to dethrone the king without holding the election or a new election system, they have to amend the constitution first.

But amending the statute is a tricky issue that needs the consent of two-thirds of the legislators.

With Koirala’s Nepali Congress, the biggest party in the interim parliament, opposing the demands, the rebels are unable to get the required votes.

Knowing that in their hearts, the Maoists have begun stepping up pressure on the eve of the parliamentary session.

They have called mass meetings in key towns Sunday to pressure the government. Meanwhile, their leaders are also asking for a change in leadership if the state fails to implement their two demands.

The demand for the king’s ouster before the polls pits the Maoists against the international community, including India, that has been demanding elections at the earliest and the king’s future to be left to the hands of the elected assembly, not parliament.

Koirala said this week that he would go ahead with the elections even if the Maoists decided to stay away. However, it remains to be seen if he will be able to do that.

Nepal has failed to hold general elections since 1999 due to opposition by the Maoists.

The constituent assembly election, regarded as a major step for restoring peace in Nepal, was indefinitely postponed from the scheduled Nov 22 date after the Maoists quit the government demanding the king’s immediate ouster and announced they would oppose the polls.