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Six Months on, Nepalese King Seeks to Consolidate Control


Nepal's King Gyanendra is tightening his grip on power six months after he fired the government and took direct control of the country. He says the move is necessary because political parties are failing to control a Maoist rebellion.

When King Gyanendra seized power in February, some people hoped he would live up to his word and crush a decade-long Maoist rebellion, and improve stability in a country ruled by weak governments since it became a democracy 13 years ago.

But six-months later, Nepal faces more turbulence. The head of The Center for Contemporary Studies in Kathmandu, Lok Raj Baral, says the king appears to have failed on all fronts.

"Now gradually the whole thinking is being changed. Now the king's regime also has not delivered anything. There is a kind of disillusionment we find today," he said.

The king has steadily tightened his grip on power despite calls from the international community and from within Nepal to restore democracy.

Stringent censorship continues and many political opponents, including the deposed prime minister, are in jail. The capital Kathmandu is more secure from rebel attacks, but violence scars the countryside where the rebels' grip is still strong.

Anti-monarchy slogans are becoming more strident as political parties, students and civil society hold almost daily street protests.

Some political analysts say as anti-monarchy forces unite, political parties are even warming to the idea of an alliance with Maoist rebels, who recently offered to support multi-party democracy and work together with the king's political opponents to overthrow the monarchy.

Yubaraj Ghimre, editor of the Nepalese magazine Samay, says the king is completely isolated, and surviving on the support of the army and police.

"His political ambitions are clearly visible, but he has lost the respect the institution of monarchy used to command in the country traditionally," said Yubaraj Ghimre.

There are also growing concerns about the economic future of the country. Several international donors have warned they will curtail financial support because of worries that money is being diverted to strengthen the army. Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries and depends on overseas assistance to fund many of its development projects.

Analysts like Mr. Ghimre say that Nepal's future remains uncertain because of the political turmoil.

"It is a critical crossroad that Nepal is in [at] today, and which side it would be headed - toward chaos or toward conciliation would depend on how the king responds to international community's pressure and the wishes of the Nepalese people for conciliation," he added.

But the king has remained firm in the face of criticism, saying he has a three-year plan to restore democracy and stability in the country.