April 24, 2006

Nepalis celebrate “people’s victory”

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepalis cheered and danced on the
streets in the early hours of Tuesday after King Gyanendra
announced he was giving in to massive pro-democracy protests
and reinstating the kingdom's dissolved parliament.

Political parties leading nearly three weeks of protests
that have crippled the impoverished kingdom hailed the
proclamation and said they would most likely call off the
anti-monarchy campaign later in the day.

"This victory is the people's victory, long live
democracy," hundreds chanted on the streets of the capital
Kathmandu and in other towns, whistling and cheering.

Nepal's parliament has been dissolved since 2002, and a
multi-party government was suspended in February last year when
Gyanendra declared a state of emergency and assumed absolute
power himself.

Speaking on national television late on Monday, the king
said he was calling back the assembly.

"We, through this proclamation, reinstate the house of
representatives which was dissolved on May 22, 2002," he said,
adding that the first session would be held on Friday.

"It is the victory of the people's movement," said Arjun
Narsingh K.C., a senior leader of the Nepali Congress, the
largest political party.

The United States welcomed the move and urged a "ceremonial
role" for the king.

Ram Chandra Poudel, another leader of the Nepali Congress,
said the seven-party alliance that has led the movement would
meet on Tuesday to decide a formal response to the king. "We
will most likely call off the protests," he told Reuters.

Gyanendra had offered last week to hand over power to a
prime minister nominated by the seven parties, but they said
this was not enough. Monday's address went much further in
content and in tone.


The king said he was reconvening parliament "convinced that
the source of state authority and sovereignty of the kingdom of
Nepal is inherent in the people of Nepal, and cognisant of the
spirit of the ongoing people's movement."

"For him to even acknowledge there was a people's movement,
that really shocked me," said Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali

Reinstating the parliament was a key requirement of the
pro-democracy campaign.

Elections to an assembly that would write a new
constitution have been another demand of the protesters, and of
Maoist rebels who control large swathes of the countryside.

The king made no explicit reference to such a constituent
assembly but said his proclamation was being made "according to
the road map of the agitating political parties."

Analysts said the rebels had been given assurances during
frantic negotiations brokered by diplomats that the reconvened
parliament would call constituent assembly elections. Giant
neighbor India played a leading role brokering the deal.

"This was the only compromise possible," Dixit said.

"The parties got their parliament, the Maoists got their
constituent assembly through that parliament, the king got to
keep his throne, for now."

But he said there was much to be done.

"Our parties are better at fighting for democracy than
making it work."

There was no immediate word from the Maoists, who have been
fighting a decade-long insurgency that has killed at least
13,000 people.

The State Department said it saluted the courage of the
people of Nepal in the struggle for democracy and urged the
Maoists to renounce violence.

"We believe that he (the king) should now hand power over
to the parties and assume a ceremonial role in his country's
governance," spokesman Adam Ereli said in a statement.

"Nepal's political parties must step up to their
responsibilities and cooperate to turn the people's demands for
democracy and good governance into reality. The Maoists must
end their violent attacks and join a peaceful political

(Additional reporting by Simon Denyer)