Electoral officials in Nepal are counting votes cast in a national referendum to decide whether King Birendra should lift a ban on political parties, imposed nearly twenty years ago.
GV Royal Palace in Kathmandu with armed guards at gate. (2 SHOTS)
GV National Assembly building where votes are counted.
SV People reading referendum posters. (3 SHOTS)
GV Crowds on top of building in compound of Bhadrakali Temple.
SV Sheep being sacrificed, masked dancers rushing forward to drink blood from slit throat.
GV PAN Over crowd at ceremony.
GV Women receiving and eating holy rice.
CU Masked dancers.
CU PAN FROM Head of slaughtered sheep TO crowd at ceremony.
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Background: Electoral officials in Nepal are counting votes cast in a national referendum to decide whether King Birendra should lift a ban on political parties, imposed nearly twenty years ago. Observers claim the result could completely transform the political face of this poor Himalayan kingdom.
SYNOPSIS: The Royal Palace in Kathmandu - the seated of the himalayan monarchy -- where all power has emanated since nineteen sixty. The final results which will determine whether that power returns to the hands of the politicians, wont, be know until Tuesday (13 May).
At the National Assembly building votes are still being counted. the government declared a public holiday for the poll, and queues built up several hours before voting booths opened. The main referendum issue is whether to retain the partyless council system or to lift the ban on political parties.
To ensure a peaceful vote, Brahim monks celebrated the festival of Bhadrakali.
Sheep were sacrificed in the temple compound in Kathmandu's Te Bahal area, and masked dancers performed.
Tension has been building up for months after political leaders warned there could be violence if they are defeated. But King Birendra and his government stated they would crack down hard on troublemakers, after incidents during the referendum campaign.
Forty people died last year during student-led riots against political repression. The referendum has already changed the political situation in Nepal, and King Birendra promises more changes, whatever the outcome.