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Tens of Thousands Celebrate 'Victory' Over King in Kathmandu


Thousands of people have rallied on the streets of Nepal's capital Kathmandu to celebrate the decision by King Gyanendra to reinstate parliament and allow opposition parties to name a new prime minister. But leaders of Nepal's communist insurgency have rejected the proposal, saying the king is merely trying to hold on to power.

It was another day of mass rallies in Kathmandu, but this time, anger had given way to celebration.

Tens of thousands of people gathered to hear speeches, march along the city's ring road, or drive in trucks and on motorcycles, chanting pro-democracy slogans.

They were celebrating the decision announced late Monday by King Gyanendra to reinstate parliament - a major concession to Nepal's seven-party opposition alliance, whose supporters had staged nearly three weeks of anti-government demonstrations. Clashes with police were common, and at least 14 people died.

With the restoration of parliament, elections will be held for a new constituent assembly. A former prime minister, 84-year-old Girija Prasad Koirala will again head the government.

But many people, such as this demonstrator, say they will continue to hold rallies to keep up the pressure on the political parties to work for the end of Nepal's monarchy.

"We are very cautious because they may sign another compromise with the king and let him last another decade," the protester said.

King Gyanendra dismissed parliament in May 2002 and sacked the government last February. He also arrested scores of opposition leaders, students and activists.

The king said his actions were justified because the political parties had failed to organize elections or end a long-running conflict with communist insurgents, who call themselves Maoists. Nepal, he said, was in danger of becoming a failed state.

King Gyanendra dramatically reversed his position in an address broadcast Monday on state television - apologizing for the deaths of demonstrators at the hands of security forces, and pledging to work in the spirit of the people's movement.

For those reasons, some say, it is unlikely he will try to seize power again.

Kunda Dixit is the editor of the magazine, the Nepali Times.

"For this king to acknowledge - even say the word "people's movement," in an address to the nation, to offer condolences to people who have mauled by his own security forces - especially given the personality of this king, - ...he was really coming out. So now the question is again, should we trust him? ...I think we can this time," Dixit said.

But not everyone was celebrating. The leaders of the Maoist insurgency have criticized the decision by the political parties to accept the king's plan to restore parliament, calling it a "historic blunder." The rebel group has been fighting to topple the monarchy since 1996.

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