Nepali police clash with protesters demanding King Gyanendra

Nepali police clashed with protesters demanding King Gyanendra's ouster on Thursday, a day after a remarkably low turnout at local polls signalled a massive rejection of the monarch's seizure of power last year.

One analyst said the king's days could be be numbered.

Police fired tear gas on Thursday as protesters burned tyres, hurled rocks and bottles and chanted slogans just a few hundred metres (yards) from the royal palace in Kathmandu. There were no injuries.

The demonstrators were protesting against Wednesday's elections for municipal officials and against the army's killing of a protester during a poll protest.

"We don't want a murderer government. You can't kill people," they shouted.

Only 20 percent of registered voters turned out on Wednesday, less than a third of the more than 60 percent in the last such election, and analysts said it was a clear vote against King Gyanendra and his seizure of power last February.

Washington described the polls as a "hollow attempt" by the monarch to legitimise his rule.

"These municipal elections were a referendum on the king's takeover one year ago," Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times weekly, told Reuters. "The message to the king is that 80 percent of people don't support him.

"They saw it as an exercise by the king to legitimise his rule. I think his days could be numbered."

Analysts say King Gyanendra's position is becoming increasingly shaky and republican sentiment is growing, especially among the young, frustrated by the lack of democracy and the lack of jobs in an economy shattered by a decade-old Maoist revolt aimed at toppling the monarch.

"It's clear that the king does not have support," said Minendra Rijal, a leader of the Nepali Congress Party (Democratic) who is on the run from police.

"A PLOY"

"This was basically a ploy to sell to the international community that he is interested in democracy, which he is not," Rijal said. "The world community now knows he has no support."

He is one of dozens of politicians on the run. The United Nations estimates at least 800 political prisoners are in custody.

Rijal said the seven main political parties, which boycotted Wednesday's polls, will step up protests to force the king to talk with them and bring the Maoists into the political process, reports Reuters.

I.L.