Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Saturday, 19 April 2008 17:44 UK

Nepal Maoists claim poll victory

By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Prachanda - 19/4/2008
Prachanda said he would soon be leading a new, republican, government

The Maoist party of former rebels in Nepal has for the first time explicitly claimed victory in the country's national elections, held nine days ago.

The Maoists' leader, Prachanda, said he would head a new government, with the monarchy abolished.

Votes are still being counted - the Maoists are certain to have the most seats but not an overall majority.

The two other big parties have been badly beaten but the Maoists want to include them in a coalition government.

Many of the traditional politicians of the defeated parties have so far been reluctant to enter into a coalition with the former rebels.

Monarchy's end

The Maoists' leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal - who still uses his war name, Prachanda - was addressing a rally in the constituency on the outskirts of the capital, Kathmandu, which has elected him to the new constitutional assembly.

Garlanded and daubed with vermillion powder, he thanked the crowds and said that in a few days' time, he would return to the same place as the leader of a new, republican government.

Prachanda's deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, told the rally that King Gyanendra would be accorded economic, social and cultural respect as a citizen of Nepal if he co-operated with the abolition of the monarchy, which is due soon.

Earlier Prachanda said he wanted to meet the monarch to persuade him to step aside and move out of the royal palace rather than being forced to do so.

All of Nepal's main political parties had agreed before the election that King Gyanendra would be removed from his throne, ending centuries of monarchy in the Himalayan nation.

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