By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu
The leader of Nepal's former Maoist rebels says he expects to be the first president of the country after its monarchy is abolished.
Prachanda believes Maoists will lead the upcoming elections
Prachanda told the BBC that King Gyanendra would probably be allowed to stay in Nepal after losing his title.
The ruling coalition says the monarchy will be abolished later this year.
The Maoists signed a landmark peace deal with the government in November 2006, declaring an end to their decade-old insurgency.
During the interview, Prachanda also refused to rule out the possibility the Maoists might take up arms again.
This April, Nepalis are due to elect an assembly to write a new constitution.
Prachanda said his travels round the country had convinced him that his Maoist party would come top.
He also said that, as its leader, he would in due course become president of a new Nepalese republic.
Prachanda said King Gyanendra's fate would depend on his actions.
"If he follows the decision of the masses of peoples according to the constitution, if he abides by the constitution, then our people will pardon him to stay here as a common citizen. There is not a problem," he said.
The Maoists' actions since coming into parliament and the cabinet in the past 13 months do not seem to have won them many friends.
In particular their huge youth league, the successor to their war-time militia, is regularly accused of extortion and thuggery.
But Prachanda said accounts of such behaviour were exaggerated.
He said his party would accept the election result even if it did badly.
But he said it was possible the Maoists might take up arms again if any section of society, such as the army, tried "to conspire against the peace process."
He added, however, that they wouldn't wage war from the countryside; rather, violence might arise in the streets of cities.