Municipal elections will take place as scheduled next year, a senior minister said Tuesday, despite threats of violence from communist rebels and a proposed boycott by Nepal's main political parties. King Gyanendra, under pressure to restore democracy since he seized absolute power and installed a royal government last February, announced the Feb. 8 municipal elections as a first step toward parliamentary polls.
"We have completed preparations for the elections and made the necessary security arrangements to ensure free and fair polls," Home Minister Kamal Thapa told reporters. "Postponing the elections is not possible." Thapa's comments came just days after Maoist rebels warned they would take "special action" against election workers and candidates, and that they would enforce a Feb. 5-11 general strike to disrupt the polls.
The rebels didn't elaborate on what the special action would entail, but they have in the past beat up and even killed anyone who defies their orders.
Thapa said the government would try to conduct the election as peacefully as possible but warned it would take action against anyone trying to disrupt the proceedings. The king said his Feb. 1 power grab was necessary to quell the communist insurgency, restore peace, hold elections and clean up the administration.
The country's seven main political parties announced in October that they wouldn't take part in the municipal polls because their participation would amount to legitimizing King Gyanendra's autocratic rule. Some 55 other political parties have registered to take part.
Nepal hasn't held municipal elections since 1998. A ballot planned for 2003 was canceled because of rebel violence, reports the AP. I.L.