Nepal's political parties to boycott nationwide elections

Nepal's major political parties on Wednesday said they would boycott nationwide municipal elections in February next year, saying participation in the polls would amount to legitimizing the King's undemocratic rule. The parties would also start talks with communist rebels to bring them into the political mainstream and end their violent uprising, which King Gyanendra said was the reason he seized control of the government earlier this year, said Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress party.

The Nepali Congress leads an alliance of seven main political parties demanding the restoration of democracy in the Himalayan kingdom.

Poudel said Gyanendra's decision to hold municipal elections, the first such poll in nearly eight years, was meant to placate international pressure, but in reality, the monarch continued to repress and restrict freedoms, the latest being an ordinance to control independent media.

"In this situation taking part in elections is a meaningless matter," Poudel told The Associated Press, after a meeting of the seven parties on Wednesday.

Gyanendra fired the previous government and appointed his own on Feb. 1, saying the old government was not doing enough to fight corruption or suppress a communist insurgency that has killed 12,000 people since 1996, the AP reminds.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting to topple the monarchy and establish a socialist state in Nepal.

In September, however, they declared a unilateral cease-fire for three months, and Poudel said the alliance would use this time of relative peace to start talks.

He declined to name the negotiators citing security reasons and said the political parties planned to ask international groups to mediate the talks.


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