Nepal's political opposition has criticized King Gyanendra for consolidating his power by appointing regional administrators.

Nepal's main political parties say King Gyanendra's move in appointing 14 regional administrators will strengthen autocratic rule. The administrators were appointed on Monday.

The Nepali Congress and Communist parties say the move revives a system that was abolished in 1990 when a popular movement ended the monarchy's total control of the country and established a multiparty democracy.

A political expert on South Asian affairs in New Delhi, S.D. Muni, says the appointment of the administrators is the latest sign that the king is tightening his grip on both the civil and defense administration.

"He obviously is consolidating his position and there is absolutely no other sign that he is going to relax either the emergency or the control on democratic forces?. There has been a lot of consolidation of the army even at the district level," he said.

King Gyanendra took control of the government in February after accusing the prime minister of failing to control a Maoist insurgency and stop political infighting. He suspended civil liberties, banned demonstrations and imposed tight censorship.

His action led to demands by the international community that he restore civil liberties, prompting the king to tell diplomats that he needed one hundred days to do so.

Political analysts such as Mr. Muni say there is no sign that the king is about to meet the international community's calls for ending the emergency.

"He is not relaxing on the political opposition. He is playing cards [games] with them, in the sense [of] releasing Mr. A, arresting Mr. B, releasing 200 people today, arresting 300 tomorrow, and no relaxation of the press comments, media work," added Mr. Muni.

In fact, there are fears that the regional administrators will help crush growing protests by the king's opponents, who are demanding the restoration of democracy. The protests have been small but have been held in several towns in recent weeks, prompting authorities to arrest hundreds of people.

Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries. Its political problems come at a time when a nearly decade-long Maoist rebellion has ravaged the country, killing more than 11,000 people.