- Title: NEPAL: Thousands of Nepalese stream into Kathmandu streets to celebrate democracy
- Date: 25th April 2006
- Summary: STREET SCENE
- Embargoed: 10th May 2006 13:00
- Location: Nepal
- Country: Nepal
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9LLG46SSEDP9XNQZ4UKAMR84M
- Story Text: Hundreds of thousands of people held a victory rally in Nepal's capital on Tuesday (April 25) after King Gyanendra announced he was reinstating parliament, but tens of thousands crowded near the palace, demanding he leave the country.
Rows of riot police blocked the demonstrators less than 500 metres (550 yards) from Kathmandu's Narayanhity Palace, but there was no violence.
The crowds made no attempt to break through but tore down metal signboards carrying excerpts from the king's speeches and shouted "Gyanendra, thief, leave the country."
A sea of Nepalese streamed through all roads leading to the city centre, waving party flags, chanting slogans and dancing to celebrate the king's announcement. Riot police and armed soldiers watched without attempting to hold them back in the Kathmandu streets except near the palace.
Maoist rebels, who control large swathes of the countryside, denounced the king's speech as a sham.
The seven parties which have led the almost three weeks of a crippling anti-monarchy campaign named former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, 84, as the new head of government and said the first job would be to ensure the Maoists, fighting a decade-long rebellion, joined the political mainstream.
But Maoist leader Prachanda said that the alliance had committed "another historic mistake" and encouraged the people to continue their protests until the parties declared elections for an assembly to write a new constitution.
The proclamation is a sham and a conspiracy against the Nepali people,"Prachanda said in a statement. "Our party firmly rejects this."
He also called for a blockade of the capital Kathmandu, a city of 1.5 million people, and district capitals.
Earlier, the seven parties called off their protest campaign.
Much of the demonstrators' anger near the palace seemed to be aimed at Home (Interior) Minister Kamal Thapa, who they blamed for a harsh crackdown on the protest campaign.
"Hang Kamal Thapa, destroy the monarchy," they shouted. At least 12 people have been killed and thousands wounded in police action against protesters in the campaign.
Alongside the rallies, life returned to near normal in Kathmandu after almost three weeks of curfew, protests and closures. Shops were open and many buses and taxis were running for the first time since April 6. Mobile phone connections, cut at the height of the unrest on Saturday (APR 23), were restored.
The Maoists have been trying to end the monarchy and establish a communist republic and more than 13,000 people have died in the insurgency since 1996.
Nepal's parliament has been dissolved since 2002, and Gyanendra assumed absolute power last year, declaring a state of emergency and vowing to crush the escalating Maoist rebellion.
Speaking on national television late on Monday (APR 24), the king said he was calling back the assembly.
Impromptu victory celebrations erupted in Kathmandu and in other towns almost immediately.
"This victory is the people's victory, long live democracy," hundreds chanted on the streets, whistling and cheering.
The United States welcomed the move and urged a "ceremonial role" for the king.
Gyanendra had offered last week to give power to a prime minister nominated by the seven parties, but they said this was not enough. Monday's address went further in content and in tone.
The king said he was reconvening parliament "convinced that the source of state authority and sovereignty of the kingdom of Nepal is inherent in the people of Nepal, and cognisant of the spirit of the ongoing people's movement".
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