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Nepal gets royalist PM

Kathmandu, June 4 (Reuters): Nepal’s king defied opposition demands and appointed a royalist as the new Prime Minister today, setting the stage for fresh political turmoil.

Opposition parties had proposed their own candidate and said King Gyanendra’s choice of Surya Bahadur Thapa was undemocratic.

They vowed to continue nationwide protests that forced his predecessor out last week.

Gyanendra, brought to power by a royal massacre which shocked Nepal two years ago, also transferred his executive powers to Thapa, a four-time Prime Minister, and asked him to form a Cabinet from all major parties, a palace statement said.

“This is undemocratic. The king has ignored the recommendations of the five opposition parties,” Nepali Congress spokeperson Arjun Narsingh K.C. said.

“Our agitation will continue. The Nepali Congress will not join in the new government.”

Other opposition parties were expected to follow suit.

Because of the strength of the opposition, analysts said Thapa’s term as Nepal’s 13th Prime Minister in as many years might be brief.

“I think the king is going in for a direct confrontation with the opposition parties,” said Rabindra Khanal, who teaches political science at the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu.

“This shows the shortsightedness of the king.”

Thapa, 75, leads the Rastriya Prajatantra Party of Lokendra Bahadur Chand, who quit as Prime Minister on Friday after months of protests by Congress and four other opposition parties.

“The country is in crisis. I urge everybody’s support,” Thapa told reporters. He is expected to be sworn in tomorrow.

Thapa said his immediate priorities were to secure cross-party support and to end a Maoist rebellion that has killed more than 7,200 people since 1996.

The Maoists, who began peace talks with Chand’s administration after a surprise ceasefire in January, were unfazed by Thapa’s appointment.

“The change of guard by the king will not make any material difference,” chief negotiator and Maoist number-two Babu Ram Bhattarai said.

Before Chand’s resignation, talks had already stalled over the government’s delay in meeting a Maoist demand to send the army back to its barracks.

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