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Nepal Maoists rejoin cabinet after monarchy deal

KATHMANDU, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Nepal’s former Maoist rebels rejoined the interim government on Sunday, two days after parliament voted to abolish the monarchy, ending three months of deadlock that had threatened to derail the peace process.

Maoist leader Prachanda is seen in Kathmandu in this August 12, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Ankita Shrestha/Files

The Maoists, who ended their insurgency under a 2006 peace deal, quit the government in September demanding the monarchy be immediately abolished and a system of proportional representation introduced for upcoming elections.

The cabinet they have rejoined is now supposed to hold the twice-postponed elections for an assembly meant to draw up a new constitution to cap the peace process.

“The first priority of this government is to hold the constituent assembly elections,” said Maoist member Dev Gurung, after being appointed as minister for local development on Sunday.

“Necessary laws will have to be made or amended to conduct the elections. That may take a few days after which the government will announce the new date for the polls.”

A government statement said Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala had added seven Maoist nominees to his multi-party government, five as cabinet ministers and two as junior ministers.

The new ministers will be sworn in by 83-year-old Koirala on Monday, state-run Nepal Television said.

During a 10-year insurgency that killed more than 13,000 people, the holding of constituent assembly elections had been a key demand of the Maoists.

The vote to elect members of the assembly, under a mix of proportional representation and first-past-the-post constituencies, is now expected to be held in April.

But the assembly will not have the power it was supposed to have, to decide on the monarchy’s future -- since that decision has now been made by parliament.

Now it will merely be obliged to endorse the decision to turn Nepal into a republic, and will not have the power to reject or change it.

King Gyanendra will be allowed to live in the royal palace, albeit without any power, until the assembly meets.

Reporting by Gopal Sharma; editing by Simon Denyer