Nepal royals jittery as president to replace king

May 27th, 2008 - 7:13 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 27 (IANS) After putting up an impassive front ahead of the assembly meeting that will Wednesday end Nepal’s 239-year-old reign of the Shah dynasty, the royal family Tuesday showed first signs of jitters as the ruling parties finally agreed that a president would replace King Gyanendra as head of state. “Crown Prince Paras has rushed to the palace to see his father, the last king of Nepal, after hearing that there has been a political consensus among the parties,” said Kishore Shrestha, editor of the Nepali weekly Jana Aastha, which has been one of the most persistent chroniclers of the royals’ doings.

In April 2006, when the king was forced to end his 14-month absolute rule through a televised address, people wondered what made him choose such a late hour. It was Shrestha’s tabloid, with its ‘Deep Throat’ in the palace as well as security forces, that broke the news that the enraged crown prince had held up the announcement.

In a manner reminiscent of that action, Paras rushed to the palace on hearing that his father was readying to step down, hell-bent on talking the king out of the decision that he said would be fatal for his inheritance.

The royals, though, had a ray of hope even on Tuesday, a day before the formal abolition of the crown, with the Maoists and the two other major parties still squabbling over power-sharing.

Two rounds of lengthy negotiations between the former Maoist rebels, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) Monday failed to bring about accord on the distribution of key posts.

They even failed to give full shape to the constituent assembly.

Though the constituent assembly is to have 601 members, only 568 members were sworn in Tuesday since the parties failed to reach a consensus on nominating 26 members.

The election of two remains under dispute with the constitutional court having ordered a stay on their oath-taking while five more seats are still vacant as five leaders won from two constituencies each and are still to vacate one.

The continued squabbles gave fresh hope to the royal family that there would be a last-minute reprieve.

However, the three bickering parties managed to reach a consensus on abolishing monarchy Wednesday and officially declaring Nepal a republic.

After more parleys in the morning, they have agreed that the king, who was head of the state, would be replaced by a ceremonial president.

But the feuding parties are yet to decide who would be the first president of Nepal and who would lead the new government as prime minister.

While the Maoists are gunning for both posts by virtue of having won the largest number of seats in last month’s historic election, they are being strongly opposed by the other two parties.

UML chief Jhalanath Khanal said Nepal would enjoy a three-day national holiday from Wednesday, which would be celebrated as Republic Day.

He also said that the parties have agreed that the Narayanhity royal palace, where the Shah kings had lived for generations, would become a national museum while the government would build a new residence for the first president.

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