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Nepal Supreme Court Upholds Decision to Dissolve Parliament - 2002-08-06

In Nepal, the Supreme Court has upheld Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's move to dissolve parliament, and rejected a bid by rival lawmakers to reinstate the legislature. The court's decision clears the way for parliamentary elections in November.

The unanimous decision to reject petitions by 56 lawmakers seeking to reinstate parliament came after hours of closed door discussions by 11 justices of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Deuba had dissolved parliament in May, and called early elections after failing to secure his party's support for extending a state of emergency imposed to fight a violent Maoist rebellion. In a series of petitions, rival lawmakers had challenged that decision, saying Prime Minister Deuba had overstepped his authority.

The Supreme Court's decision comes as a boost to Prime Minister Deuba, and a setback to his rivals, who had expelled him from the ruling party over his decision to dissolve parliament. Mr. Deuba now leads a breakaway faction of the Nepali Congress party.

Mr. Deuba's rivals say they will accept the court verdict and will prepare to take part in the polls. The Supreme Court's verdict could help end the political uncertainty that the mountain kingdom has been facing in recent months.

However, political analysts say the elections will be held under the shadow of threats by Maoist rebels to disrupt the polls. They say government will have to ensure greater security to enable people to take part in the elections, especially in outlying areas where the Maoists have strong influence.

Mr. Deuba says the elections will be offer a choice between peace and terrorism.

Maoist guerrillas have been fighting since 1996 to replace the country's constitutional monarchy with a communist republic. The rebellion, and the political uncertainty in the mountain kingdom has led to concerns about the future of democracy in Nepal.