Wed, May 28, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Nepalese politicians pave way for Maoist leadership

AGENCIES , KATHMANDU

Nepal's three main political parties yesterday agreed on the system of government paving the way for the Maoists to head the new government.

The agreement came after three days of talks over differences between the Maoists, who want a powerful president, and the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal — Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), who want a ceremonial president as the head of state and a prime minister with full executive powers.

“The Maoist dropped their demands for powerful president which paved the way for agreement,” General Secretary of CNP-UML Jhalanath Khanal said.

“The meeting also agreed to draft a proposal to declare the country a republic which will be tabled at Wednesday’s [today’s] meeting of the constituent assembly,” Khanal said.

Khanal said that he expected the proposal to pass without a problem.

The government has also decided to declare three days of national holiday starting today to celebrate the declaration.

The agreement came as newly elected members of the constituent assembly took an oath of office in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.

Meanwhile, a strike called by a group calling itself the Terai army against the declaration of republic has paralyzed transport and normal life in several districts in southern Nepal.

Media reports said the strike had shut down shops, educational institutions and transport has been halted but there have been no reports of violence.

The Nepali government warned that it could use force to throw unpopular King Gyanendra out of the royal palace if he refuses to leave voluntarily after the 239-year-old monarchy is abolished.

“The king must leave the palace immediately and move to the Nirmal Niwas,” Peace and Reconstruction Minister Ram Chandra Poudel said, referring to Gyanendra’s private home. “If he does not leave the palace then the government might have to use force to vacate the palace. This will not be good for him.”

Many Nepalis think that the king will quietly go after the assembly vote. Gyanendra has been living in the Narayanhity royal palace in the heart of Kathmandu since ascending the throne in 2001, but he has made no public statement about his plans.

The government has banned demonstrations around major royal sites and the assembly.

“This is going to be a celebration and a display of our strength and our victory. But we will stay away from prohibited areas,” said Maoist youth wing head Sagar, who goes by one name.

The Maoists waged a bloody decade-long revolt to topple the monarchy and install a communist republic, but now say they have embraced multiparty democracy.

Other young Nepalese, who said they wanted the country to shed its feudal past and become a modern republic, voiced hopes the king would leave quietly.

“It will be very good for him to agree with the decision that the parties take,” said student Saroj Rimal, 19, who belongs to a major center-left party.

“Otherwise our country will see the same thing that happened to Louis XVI in France happen here,” he said, referring to the king who was beheaded during the French Revolution.

But some people said they did not believe the king would go.

“If someone came into your house and tried to take you out by force, would you go?” policeman Bhim Bahadur, 48, said. “It’s not possible to end the monarchy like that.”

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