Nepal king remains serene ahead of fateful polls

April 7th, 2008 - 1:21 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 7 (IANS) While pressure mounted on his opponents, King Gyanendra, the player who has the most at stake as his kingdom goes to the polls in three days’ time, remained serene, carrying on with his normal routine, including wishing his loyal subjects a happy new year. With the Nepali new year starting from April 13, messengers from the Narayanhity royal palace, that the former Maoist guerrillas have threatened to storm if Thursday’s election fails to bring them victory, bore greeting cards from the king and queen to hundreds of people, including politicians, top businessmen, civil society members and journalists.

Carrying the image of the royal coat of arms complete with two tridents, a sword and the coveted crown with its long plume, the card said, “All good wishes for a happy new year from their Majesties, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and Komal Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah, the King and Queen of Nepal.”

Though the inscription remained the same as last year, the message went deeper.

It conveyed that though the Maoists had last year forced parliament into declaring Nepal a republic, the proclamation did not exist for the royal family, who have continued to use their royal titles.

Though the fateful constituent assembly election Thursday is being touted as signalling the end of the Shah dynasty of kings, the reality is different.

Nepal’s parliament decided that the 601-member newly elected constituent assembly will decide at its first meeting if the king should remain or make way for a republic. But there is no indication when the first meeting will take place.

It will take at least two weeks for the election results to be announced since Nepal is following a complicated system for its first-ever constituent assembly election.

While direct fights will decide 240 seats, 335 will be determined on the basis of proportional representation with the remaining 26 to be nominated.

The Maoists have declared an all-out war on the king. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, headed by a former royalist minister, is the only major party openly supporting a constitutional monarch. The other parties’ intentions remain enigmatic.

The largest party, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress, is divided, with some powerful leaders still rooting for a king.

The other dominant party in the ruling coalition, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, is accused of trying to save the king while a rising power in the Terai plains, the debutant Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, has fielded several candidates, including a former governor of the central bank and industrialists, who are known to support a constitutional monarch.

The parties, who were united by the Indian government during the king’s absolute rule, have reverted to their old infighting for power. On Thursday, instead of fighting the king, they will be fighting one another.

Meanwhile, the king has indicated that he still holds an ace.

In an interview to a royalist weekly, he hinted at a secret understanding between the parties to retain a ceremonial king in exchange for his handing over the reins of government to them.

“I will speak when the time comes,” he promised.

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