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Indefinite strike by Maoists cripples Nepal
May 2, 2010 / 8:28 AM / in 8 years

Indefinite strike by Maoists cripples Nepal

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU, May 2 (Reuters) - Thousands of Maoist activists roamed Kathmandu’s streets on Sunday, enforcing an indefinite general strike in support of their demand for a new Nepalese government.

Shops were shuttered and schools closed on Sunday, a working day, and public transport and taxis stayed off the roads.

Tens of thousands of the ex-rebels’ supporters poured into the capital from the countryside for a rally on Saturday to demand the dissolution of a cabinet propped up by an alliance of 22 parties.

Many protesters, housed in schools, stayed behind to ensure observance of the strike, which analysts say could worsen a political crisis and endanger a 2006 peace deal which ended a decade-long civil war.

Activists moved through the city centre preventing shops from opening and hindering the movement of vehicles. Many shouted: "Dissolve this government. Form a national government."

"Historic political changes in Nepal have come through the streets," Maoist leader Prachanda, who like many Nepalese uses only one name, told a rally in a city park.

"It is no pleasure to call this strike. It is compulsion for peace and a new constitution."

The Maoists headed a coalition in 2008 after a surprise win in the election for a constituent assembly, a body tasked to prepare a new constitution. This was part of a peace deal to do away with the monarchy and end a decade-long civil war which killed more than 13,000 people.

But they walked out after the president refused to endorse their dismissal of Nepal’s army chief, plunging the nation into turmoil and delaying attempts to draft a new constitution.

"This strike is to ensure peace and to ensure that the constitution is written on time," Krishna, a Maoist sympathiser from western Nepal, told reporters.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has refused to quit, calling on the Maoists instead to launch a dialogue.

"One should not resign from the government in the midst of confusion ... Government changes can be made through constitutional and parliamentary procedures and not from the streets," he said.

The special assembly is unlikely to meet its deadline of drafting a new constitution by May 28, analysts say. And the deadline cannot be extended without the support of the Maoists, who hold about 40 percent of the assembly’s 601 seats. (Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and Ron Popeski)

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