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Maoists nudge Nepal PM on first date

Kathmandu, April 8: The Maoist rebels who joined Nepal’s multiparty government last week have begun pressuring Girija Prasad Koirala to announce the schedule for the June elections which would decide the fate of the monarchy and the form of governance.

Maoist chairman Prachanda today called on Prime Minister Koirala at his official residence and voiced concern over the delay in announcing the schedule for the Constituent Assembly polls.

Sources present at the meeting said Prachanda had stressed that even the UN expressed concern at the way the government was approaching the polls.

Prachanda, the sources added, said the UN’s Nepal chief, Ian Martin, had told him it would be impossible to hold the elections — scheduled for June 20 — if the government did not speed up preparations.

Prachanda also told Koirala that Martin had informed him that the UN and the world community would not recognise the polls if they were held in haste and did not measure up to international standards.

The sources said Koirala assured Prachanda that the government was gearing up to hold the elections on time. “The government is mobilising its machinery and ensuring that its officials work overtime to meet the June 20 deadline,” Koirala said.

He also asked Prachanda not to make any inflammatory statements on the king or the monarchy till the polls were over. “Please avoid anything which may provoke the king to hatch a conspiracy against the Constituent Assembly elections,” Koirala said.

This was the first interaction between the Prime Minister and the Maoist leader after the interim government was formed on April 1.

The day also saw CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal urge Kathmandu-based diplomats not to speculate on the poll schedule.

At a news conference in the eastern town of Biratnagar this morning, Madhav, whose outfit is part of the seven-party coalition, said it was inappropriate for the diplomats to express doubts, especially when Koirala had committed himself to maintaining the schedule.

“The Prime Minister has said he will resign if the election is not held on time. In such a situation, what the UN, the US or India says is irrelevant,” Madhav said.

Blow to Gyanendra

In yet another blow to King Gyanendra, the royalist Rashtriya Janshakti Party, led by former Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, has decided to delete the term “constitutional monarchy” from its manifesto.

The development is significant as both Thapa and the RJP are considered to be close to the beleaguered king who has been stripped of all powers by the coalition government. Gyanendra had handpicked Thapa for the Prime Minister’s job five years ago.

RJP sources said though “we have not opted for a republican set-up, our party will favour ceremonial monarchy to constitutional monarchy”.

RJP spokesperson Sarbendra Nath Shukla said the decision was in line with the declaration of the House of Representatives. “The decision will be ratified at the party’s national convention to be held next month,” he added.

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