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Last Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Nepal party re-elects former PM
President of the Nepali Congress party and former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala
Koirala is leading protests against the royal takeover
A former prime minister of Nepal, Girija Prasad Koirala, has been re-elected president of the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress.

Mr Koirala will lead Nepal's largest political party for the next three years.

His re-election comes days after his party decided to remain neutral on the issue of constitutional monarchy in the country.

Mr Koirala has led the party for the last 10 years.

'Majority'

The former prime minister defeated his only rival, Narahari Acharya, by an overwhelming majority.

The party has also elected 18 members of its working committee.

Party officials say with party elections over, they can now concentrate on the struggle for democracy.

"Our focus will be to strengthen the movement to restore democracy. At the same time, we will be strengthening our party structures and making changes to policies," a party spokesman, Arjun Narsingh, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency.

'Royalist'

The 60-year-old Nepali Congress has always regarded itself as a centrist party and upheld the principle that Nepal should be a kingdom.

The party convention on Thursday formally dropped its allegiance to the system of monarchy in Nepal.

Mr Koirala, himself a royalist, says the party was forced to make this change because the king has acted outside the constitution.

The BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says the challenge for Mr Koirala now is to lead the on-going peaceful agitation launched by the seven-party opposition alliance against the royal takeover without letting it drift in a radical direction.

Some of his party colleagues and some other members of the opposition alliance believe that the country should get rid of the system of monarchy.

However, supporters of the monarchy say the institution is essential for the sake of national unity.

King Gyanendra is part of a 237-year-old dynasty that officially moved away from absolute rule in 1990.

Many Nepalis believe these Hindu kings are divine incarnations.




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