At its meeting April 30, Nepal’s newly reconvened House of Representatives unanimously approved Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s proposal for elections to a constituent assembly which will prepare a new constitution determining the fate of the monarchy.

“The Nepali people desire peace and the democratic atmosphere is all about an environment whereby people could live fearlessly,” the prime minister told the delegates. “The process for this has already begun. Let’s all cooperate in this process.”

Koirala and other leading parliamentarians, including Madhav Kumar Nepal, head of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) — the country’s second largest parliamentary party — joined in calling on Maoist rebels to negotiate a peace agreement.

Saying the government’s two main responsibilities are to announce elections to the constituent assembly and to start the process of bringing the Maoists into the political mainstream, Nepal added, “If the people want a republic, the king should be ready to accept it.”

At its meeting April 29, the CPN(UML)’s central committee called for election of a constituent assembly to establish a democratic republic.

The Maoist rebels, who have waged a decade-long armed struggle, last week declared a three-month cease-fire. However, they set preconditions for talks with the Koirala government, including unconditional elections, the release of all political prisoners and dropping their party’s designation as a “terrorist” organization.

As the week began, the Seven Party Alliance had decided to form a 21-member cabinet including representatives of all seven parties but was still working out specifics.

After King Gyanendra assumed autocratic power in February 2005, waves of protest involving hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life swept the country. On April 25, after 19 days of a nationwide general strike, protests turned into victory rallies as the king announced the reconvening of Parliament.

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