Nepal parliament calls for republic to be prepared

KATHMANDU Sun Nov 4, 2007 1:51pm EST

1 of 3. Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala addresses the special session of the parliament in Kathmandu November 4, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Gopal Chitrakar

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KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's interim parliament called on the government on Sunday to prepare for the declaration of a republic, in a compromise motion backed by Maoists who had demanded immediate abolition of the monarchy.

Two non-binding motions adopted by the legislature called on the government "to make necessary arrangements to turn Nepal into a federal democratic republic" and to adopt a system of fully proportional representation for constituent assembly elections.

Proportional representation had been another demand of the Maoist former guerrillas, who quit the interim government in September, forcing a second, indefinite postponement of constituent assembly elections that had been set for November 22.

The poll, intended to help decide the fate of the monarchy and Nepal's future political shape, is now expected to take place by April next year.

The multi-party government had opposed the Maoists' demand to immediately abolish the Himalayan nation's monarchy as it went against an earlier agreement between them to allow a new, elected assembly to decide its fate. A special session of parliament had been called to debate their demands.

The unpopular monarchy was stripped of most powers after King Gyanendra ended his absolute rule last year.

The Maoist former rebels joined the government this year as part of a peace deal that ended a decade-long civil war in which more than 13,000 people died.

They had threatened to stop elections to the constituent assembly going ahead if the government did not give in to their demands, sparking fears of violent protests.

Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Maoist leader in the parliament, said the Maoists had softened their stance and agreed to the motion to maintain unity with other political parties.

Analysts said that although neither motion is binding on the government, they would put pressure on it for the changes.

Political analysts and the mainstream parties say the Maoists are resorting to strong-arm tactics because they are new to electoral politics and may fear a possible defeat at the polls.

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