Opposition ends protests in Nepal; rebels reject king’s speech | VailDaily.com

Opposition ends protests in Nepal; rebels reject king’s speech

KATMANDU, Nepal – Tens of thousands of people flooded Katmandu’s streets to celebrate Tuesday after Nepal’s opposition called off weeks of bloody anti-monarchy protests that forced the king to restore Parliament.But with their rebel allies dismissing the king’s move as a ploy – and warning the opposition parties their acceptance of it was a betrayal – it was clear the Himalayan nation’s political crisis was far from over.For a few hours, though, celebration was the focus, as opposition leaders nominated a former prime minister to head the new government and the capital came back to life.”The king, his army and their guns were no match against the strength of the people,” said Sangita Karki, an office worker at the victory rally in Katmandu. “We won, he lost.”Hundreds of riot police were lined up to stop demonstrators from marching toward the royal palace a few hundred yards away. Witnesses said there was one minor clash, with a brief exchange of rocks and tear gas. One person was taken away in an ambulance.While thrilled the king had given in to a key opposition demand and restored Parliament, many demonstrators remain wary of the incoming political leaders – most from the core of Nepal’s bickering and often-corrupt political clique.”We are here not just to celebrate the king’s defeat, but also to warn the leaders that if they betray the people, this very crowd will not leave them alive,” said Shree Ram, who closed his small shop to join the protest.Late Monday, King Gyanendra appeared on state television to announce the reinstatement of the Parliament he dissolved four years ago, a pivotal concession that effectively returned authority to elected politicians. It was also the first step in a series of political maneuvers expected to lead to the election of a special assembly to write a new constitution.That constitution will very likely reduce the king’s role to a ceremonial status, or even eliminate the monarchy, party leaders say.The king’s announcement followed weeks of mass protests, organized jointly by the opposition’s seven-party alliance and the Maoist rebels, that had threatened to force Gyanendra from power. The protests sparked clashes with security forces that left 14 demonstrators dead and the country dangerously volatile.For much of the crisis, the king remained silent behind the walls of his heavily guarded palace in Katmandu, kept in power because of the loyalty of his army and police.While most observers saw the king’s move as a complete surrender to opposition demands, the Maoist rebels quickly rejected it.”By accepting the so-called royal proclamation the leaders of these seven political parties have once again made a blunder,” said a statement from the Maoists, whose 10-year campaign for power has left more than 13,000 people dead and given the rebels control over much of the countryside.The statement, signed by rebel leader Prachanda and his deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, called the king’s speech “a conspiracy to protect the regime.”The communist insurgents vowed to press ahead with a campaign to block roads until the election of the assembly.Opposition leaders dismissed the divisions, insisting they would bring the Maoists into the political mainstream.”These are only temporary differences,” said Minendra Risal, a top official of the Nepali Congress Democratic, “Once the election for the constitutional assembly is announced, we are sure they will cooperate with us again.”Opposition leaders, meanwhile, announced that former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, an ailing, aging politician was their choice to be prime minister.Koirala, who has been one of the most powerful forces in Nepal’s political scene for decades, has long made it known that he wanted to be prime minister again. However, he did not respond publicly to the nomination.Koirala is a four-time prime minister. His last term ended when he resigned in 2001, his government beset by the Maoist insurgency, a bribery scandal and recriminations that lax security at the royal palace had allowed a massacre that wiped out much of the royal family.By early Tuesday morning, life was almost normal in Katmandu, where the crisis had alternately filled streets with protesters or emptied them because of curfews. Mobile phones, switched off by the government in an attempt to disrupt protest organizers, were back on, stores reopened, volunteers passed stones hand-to-hand, clearing the roads of blockades.Gyanendra dismissed an interim government 14 months ago and seized direct control over the government, saying he needed to bring order to the country’s chaotic politics and crush the Maoists, who were preventing elections from being held.Vail, Colorado

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