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Nepalese Protest King's Firing of Elected Official - 2002-11-09


There have been demonstrations in Nepal to protest King Gyanendra's sacking of an elected government last month. The protests come amid mounting concern about the future of democracy in the Himalayan kingdom.

Scores of protesters marched Saturday through the streets of the capital, Kathmandu, shouting slogans calling for the withdrawal of the royal action and demanding immediate parliamentary elections. Students, teachers and several political leaders joined the protest, led by the student wing of the Nepali Congress Democratic party.

The demonstration was held on the 12th anniversary of Nepal's constitution that reinstated democracy in the mountain kingdom. In 1990, King Gyanendra's brother, Birendra, agreed to hand over power to an elected parliament after three decades of absolute rule.

Twelve years on, there is fresh concern the monarchy's recent political actions could derail democracy in the mountain kingdom.

Last month, King Gyanendra sacked the elected prime minister, Sher Bhadur Deuba, after calling him incompetent. The king appointed a staunch monarchist, Lokendra Bahadur Chand, to head an interim administration and promised fresh elections, but set no date.

It is the first time since 1990 that a Nepalese King has ousted an elected government. The move has been angrily denounced by political parties, who have refused to join the new administration.

Lok Raj Baral, a professor of Political Science at the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, says the Nepalese people are unhappy with both the King's actions and the failure of political parties to provide good governance in the last decade.

"His action is unconstitutional, and no political parties, no intellectuals, no professional groups, they endorse the King's actions," Professor Baral said. "This is one aspect. But there is another aspect that the political parties are also highly criticized by the people for their own actions. But his does not mean that people are against democracy, they are very much for democracy."

In a statement broadcast on state radio, the King hinted that political parties were to blame for the current chaos. He said the inability to develop a character, conduct and commitment in conformity with democratic values had made it difficult to meet the objectives of the constitution. He asked people to create an environment of "understanding and consensus."

Professor Baral says political parties are currently trying to mobilize to counter the King.

"They are still regrouping themselves and trying to consult and persuade the King to correct his actions," he said.

The political instability comes at a critical time. Nepal is one of the world's poorest nations, and has been battling a Maoist insurgency, and a faltering economy.

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