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Nepal's Political Factions Vow to Work Together


After months of confrontation, Nepal's king and opposition political parties say they will work together to bring peace and democracy to the country. Parliament is expected to be reinstated Friday - a major concession by King Gyanendra, who seized power last year. Still, there are signs that the struggle for political stability in Nepal has just begun.

Among the thousands celebrating King Gyanendra's capitulation to Nepal's democracy movement this week is Krishna Pahadi, a human rights activist based in the capital, Kathmandu.

Pahadi was detained by security forces in January after speaking out against the king. At a victory rally after his release Tuesday, he knew exactly what he wanted - but was under no illusions that his demands would be easily met.

"I think that the political parties should declare immediately an unconditional Constituent Assembly election, and they must address the Maoist problem," he said. " We are going to create history. It's just beginning."

The history so many Nepalese hope to create is peace and stability in the country, which has been wracked by 10 years of fighting between the government and Maoist insurgents, and more recently months of political paralysis in the capital.

Tensions remain high in the country. On Wednesday, soldiers in the southeast opened fired on a crowd protesting the death of a woman the night before, and reportedly killed several of them.

With the king's surrender after weeks of non-stop democracy demonstrations, however, many people are cautiously optimistic that both goals can be achieved.

The political crisis was sparked in February of last year, when King Gyanendra took full control of the government, arresting scores of political opponents and restricting civil liberties.

That served to unite Nepal's seven mainstream political parties, which formed an alliance. Even the Maoist insurgents began a loose cooperation with the politicians. The alliance organized massive political demonstrations, which earlier this week forced the king to reinstate parliament.

Kunda Dixit is the editor of the Nepali Times. He says the 15 months of political upheaval sparked by the takeover may have had a positive effect. For the first time, he says, the king, the parties and the Maoists are realizing they have to work together for real change to take place.

"We've gone through the euphoria and disillusionment not once, not twice, but multiple times with political parties that have promised everything - and then they get bogged down in their own bickering. But I think this time is different," said Dixit. "There's not just a question of restoration of democracy, but making it inclusive, making it work."

The Maoists have criticized the parties for accepting the king's offer to restore parliament, calling it a ploy by him to hang on to power. But on Wednesday, the rebels lifted a blockade they had imposed on the capital, and said they would keep it open through Friday - when the restored parliament is due to meet.

Analysts say the Maoists are watching to see what will come out of parliament, and whether Constituent Assembly elections - one of their key demands - will truly be called.

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