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Nepal's King Dissolves Parliament - 2002-05-23

Nepal's King Gyanendra has dissolved parliament and called for elections in November. The sudden move follows the withdrawal of parliament support for Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's proposed extension of emergency rule to fight the kingdom's Maoist uprising.

Nepal will see another mid-term-election in November, following the surprise decision late Wednesday to dissolve parliament and call for elections 1.5 years ahead of schedule.

Following the request from Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepal's King Gyanendra has set November 13 as the election date. The king asked the cabinet to keep working until a new one takes office.

But three cabinet members have resigned in protest to the parliament dismissal and Prime Minister Deuba has been expelled from his Nepali Congress Party.

Hours before a crucial debate and vote on extending the state of emergency, the central committee of the Nepali Congress Party announced it would oppose the extension.

Emergency rule, which was imposed last November, gives the authorities more leeway in detaining suspects and suppressing press freedom. Prime Minister Deuba has promised to crush Nepal's Maoist rebellion that has claimed nearly 5,000 lives since 1996.

The prime minister could rule freely for 6 months, if the Supreme Court does not overturn the parliament dismissal. He could extend the emergency provisions which are due to expire Saturday.

This is the second time in 12 years that a majority government of the Nepali Congress Party has fallen because of infighting. It is also the third time since multi-party democracy was restored in Nepal in 1990 that the Parliament was dissolved before completing its full term.

Information and Communications Minister Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta, speaking for the prime minister, said Wednesday that the House of Representatives had to be dissolved to protect "the prime ministerial system" and "democracy". Speaking at a Nepali Congress Party meeting hours before parliament was dissolved, Prime Minister Deuba noted international backing for his efforts to end the Maoist rebellion. He said, "At a time when countries like the United States, Britain and others have been backing Nepal's efforts to curb terrorism, the resistance coming from within the ruling Nepali Congress against the emergency is unfortunate."

But Congress Party spokesperson Arjun Narsingh KC labeled the prime minister's move a "conspiracy against democracy."