- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

Nepal’s ruling coalition yesterday sought to persuade Maoist ex-rebels to rejoin the government a day after they walked out over demands that the monarchy be abandoned immediately.

The Maoists, meanwhile, began a controversial campaign to oust the monarchy. The events were widely viewed as a blow to the Himalayan country’s peace process.

An emergency meeting of the eight-party alliance was inconclusive, with the rebels sticking to their demands.

Less than five months after joining the government, the rebels quit the coalition government Tuesday. They demanded that the kingdom be declared a federal republic immediately by an act of parliament, instead of waiting for the results of the Constituent Assembly elections scheduled for Nov. 22.

The Maoists have organized several mass meetings across the country to pressure the government to have their demands met before the elections.

Within hours of walking out of the government, the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist announced a series of street agitation and protest programs. The party said it would boycott the elections if the government tried to hold them without declaring Nepal a republic.

Addressing a huge rally in the capital Katmandu on Tuesday, Baburam Bhattarai, 53, the second-in-command of the Maoist party, said his party would now “declare the country a republic from the street.”

With the Maoists out of the government, analysts say the chances of elections being held on Nov. 22 have receded.

Explaining the reasons for the pullout, Mr. Bhattarai accused the other parties in the ruling alliance for running around “still carrying the carcass of the monarchy.”

Leaders of those parties say the Maoist walkout is against the spirit of the peace agreement signed last year, which provides a mechanism to oust the monarchy by the first meeting of elected Constituent Assembly.

The monarchy is under suspension, and analysts say Nepal, for all practical purposes, has become a republic. All political parties, including the Nepali Congress, which vigorously stood for constitutional monarchy in the past, have vowed to campaign in favor of a republic.

The Maoists say the monarchy, even in suspended form, is a hindrance for free and fair elections.

The Maoists, however, have not quit the political alliance with the seven parties, leaving room for cautious optimism by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and leaders of other parties.

Ram Chandra Poudel, a senior government minister from the Nepali Congress, and Madhav Kumar Nepal of the centrist Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist, said their parties remain hopeful of keeping the Maoists in the ruling coalition.

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