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State media announces probable Nepal poll dates

The election of a special assembly will be held over six days from May 29-June 3, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula announced.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2007 12:08 IST

Nepal's official media on Saturday announced probable dates for historic elections this year that could abolish the kingdom's 238-year-old monarchy and bring stability after five decades of struggle for democracy.

The election of a special assembly will be held over six days from May 29-June 3, the state-run Rising Nepal reported, for the first time announcing a date for polls that both the government and Maoists have agreed to hold by mid-June.

Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, who is also virtually the spokesman of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, announced the poll dates while launching a collection of poems here Friday, the daily said.

Sitaula is also a key figure in the peace negotiations between the Maoists and the seven-party ruling alliance,

King Gyanendra, stripped of most of his powers after an anti-monarchy uprising in April and poised to lose his last remaining executive position as head of state on Monday when a new parliament is promulgated, will have his fate decided most probably in June.

After being elected, the constituent assembly, at its very first meeting, will give its verdict on whether to keep monarchy or opt for a republic.

Next week, UN officials, including the world body's chief election adviser, will be in Nepal to advise the Election Commission how to hold the electoral battle.

Observers from the UN as well as the international community will be present in the kingdom during the elections to ensure that they are free and fair.

To create an intimidation-free atmosphere for the election, the Maoists have agreed to confine their fighters in makeshift cantonments while the government will confine the Nepal Army in barracks.

From next week, a second team of UN monitors will begin registering the arms and combatants of the Maoists.

Sitaula reportedly said the process would be over by January 29.

On Monday, Nepal's Maoists will formally join parliament, becoming a parliamentary party once again, from a revolutionary underground party that was once banned as a terrorist group.

Though the Maoists have agreed to lay down arms, the may poll is now threatened by a group of former Maoists.

The Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, a band of plains people who are demanding a separate Terai state, has called a three-day shutdown in eastern Nepal from Friday to show their muscle.

It is also feared that supporters of King Gyanendra, who seized absolute power in 2005 through a bloodless coup, will also try to disrupt or influence the poll in a bid to save the crown from coming under the axe.