Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nepal ruling party calls strike ahead of poll meet

Kathmandu, Sep 27 - A powerful communist party that is a dominant partner in the ruling alliance Thursday called a general strike in central Nepal, ahead of a crucial election meeting, to protest the attack on its leaders by Maoists.
The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), the third largest party in parliament, called a shutdown in Dhading district, north of Kathmandu, after the Maoist guerrillas, who left the government this month, allegedly beat up nearly 30 supporters, causing at least three to be admitted to hospital.
Though the Maoists in the past had repeatedly called strikes despite being in the government, this is the first time since the restoration of democracy in Nepal last year that another ruling party has called a closure.
The strike call comes even as the top leaders of the six ruling parties were scheduled to hold a crucial meeting Thursday afternoon with the Maoists to try and persuade them to call off their anti-election campaign.
While Nepal's government is gearing up to hold the twice-deferred constituent assembly election on Nov 22, the Maoist guerrillas have threatened they would oppose the polls unless the government agreed to abolish monarchy before the exercise.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, UML chief Madhav Kumar Nepal and other leaders of the six ruling parties would ask Maoist chief Prachanda at the meeting to return to the government or at least call off the stir.
While holding the election would be difficult if the Maoists continue their opposition, poll prospects received a boost this week with Koirala's Nepali Congress, the biggest party in parliament, reuniting with the Nepali Congress-Democratic that had broken away from the party five years ago.
The election would determine if King Gyanendra gets to keep his 238-year crown or becomes a commoner in a republican state.
Though there is still strong public support for monarchy, despite the unpopularity of this king who tried to rule the country through an army-backed bloodless coup, King Gyanendra lost an important prop Wednesday.
The Nepali Congress, that in the past supported constitutional monarchy, capped its reunification with a new manifesto that now supports a federal republic.
The new manifesto, however, has created fresh turmoil in the party that still has members supporting a constitutional monarch.
The unified party faced the first dissent Wednesday with its surviving founder member, former premier and a respected political leader Krishna Prasad Bhattarai resigning from the party in protest against the switch to republicanism.

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