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Nepal's Opposition Continues to Call on King for Democratic Changes - 2004-05-09


Nepal's prime minister resigned Friday after weeks of protests, but officials in the country's opposition parties are calling on King Gyanendra to make more changes.

Students over the past few days have marched through the streets of Kathmandu shouting, "The prime minister has been eliminated!"

It has been a joyous weekend for the students and Nepal's five opposition parties, whose month-long struggle forced Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa to resign on Friday.

But the crisis remains unresolved. The opposition parties say will not talk to King Gyanendra about picking a new prime minister until he agrees to their agenda for the talks. The agenda includes restoring the elected parliament, bringing the Maoist rebels into the political mainstream and limiting the king's powers.

The opposition remains skeptical of the king, whom they fear may use the current political vacuum as an opportunity to grab more power.

Bhimsen Pradhan, with the Congress Party, says the prime minister's resignation is not enough.

"On the face it this is a success," he said, "but every time in the past, his majesty the king has [conspired] against the major political parties to do away with the democratic system, to do away with the parliamentary system, therefore we are still jittery toward the royal palace."

The king's predecessor gave up absolute power to create a constitutional monarchy. However, King Gyanendra dissolved parliament and appointed a royalist government in October 2002. That eventually led to the daily protests that have wracked the country for a month.

The palace has not responded to the opposition agenda. The king reportedly considers many of the opposition politicians to be corrupt and too weak to deal with the Maoist insurgency, which has cost thousands of lives in the past several years.

The prime minister's resignation has not completely eased tension on the streets. Protesters still gather daily at major intersections, bottling up Kathmandu traffic. Students continue to throw rocks at police.

The opposition parties say they will go ahead with a nationwide strike on Tuesday and Wednesday to increase the pressure on the king to hold talks with them.

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