[JURIST] AP is reporting that Nepal's King Gyanendra [official website; BBC profile] has called for general elections and has promised dialogue with the opposition. Opposition political parties have been staging pro-democracy protests [JURIST news archive] for over a week, calling on Gyanendra to abdicate his throne and allow free national elections. In February 2005 Gyanendra seized control of the government and dismissed elected officials [JURIST report].
In a message to the nation [text], Gyanendra said:
Democracy demands restraint and consensus as all forms of extremism are incompatible with democracy. While facing the challenges confronting the nation, democracy also emphasises acceptance of the preeminence of the collective wisdom in charting a future course. Aware of our traditions and sensitivities, as well as the self-respect and self-confidence of the Nepalese people who have always remained independent throughout history, dialogue must form the basis for the resolution of all problems. We, therefore, call upon all political parties to join in a dialogue, which we have always advocated, to bear the responsibility of and contribute towards activating the multiparty democratic polity. We believe that there is no alternative to multiparty democracy in the 21st century and the verdict of the ballot alone is legitimate. It is our wish that in order to reenergize multiparty democracy, there should not be any delay in reactivating all representative bodies through elections. We are in favour of sustainable peace and the people's right to vote. Democratic norms and values demand a commitment that the goals set forth by the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990 can be achieved only through constitutional means. It is, therefore, our desire that with the active participation of all political parties committed to peace and democracy, a meaningful exercise in multiparty democracy be initiated through an exemplary democratic exercise like the general elections.Earlier Thursday, Nepal police using rubber bullets fired on a group of lawyers [JURIST report] holding a peaceful protest in Kathmandu and arrested some 70, prompting a promise from the Nepal Bar Association [official website] to boycott legal cases in the courts. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] has voiced concern [press release; JURIST report] over use of violence and arbitrary detention by police and security forces trying to end the protests. AP has more.