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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 October 2005, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Nepal promises 2005 local polls
Nepal's King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra has been urged to restore democracy
Nepal's royal government has announced that local elections will be held on 8 February next year.

Voting is to take place in all 58 of the kingdom's municipalities. Local and parliamentary elections have been due for three years.

The government says it can ensure adequate security for the vote, despite a bloody Maoist insurgency.

The opposition has said it will boycott any vote until democracy returns following the February royal coup.

King under pressure

The Election Commission statement came on the last working day before the festival of Dashain.

It is a gimmick to show that the government supports democracy and elections
Ram Chandra Poudel
Nepali Congress

It said the election process would start at least two weeks before the day of the election.

Correspondents say King Gyanendra has more support in urban areas than he does in the countryside.

He has been under pressure from the international community and opposition parties to return Nepal to democracy.

The opposition have accused him of playing political games. Hundreds of their activists have been arrested since he seized direct power.

"We will oppose the government move which is just an attempt to ease international pressure off the royal regime. It is a gimmick to show that the government supports democracy and elections," Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress, the country's largest party, told the Associated Press.

Human rights

King Gyanendra says his coup was necessary to tackle the Maoists and widespread corruption.

The Maoists rebels have yet to react to the election announcement.

They have been fighting for nearly 10 years to replace the monarchy with a communist republic. About 11,000 people have been killed.

Human rights groups say the country's already poor record has become even worse since the king dismissed the government and assumed direct power in February.

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