Tension rises as Nepal parties delay meet to axe king

May 28th, 2008 - 3:28 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 28 (IANS) Tension mounted in the capital of the world’s former sole Hindu kingdom as continuing bickering among the ruling parties held up a historic assembly that is to deliver the death blow to Nepal’s monarchy Wednesday. The newly elected constituent assembly that was to hold its first meeting at 11 a.m. and officially proclaim an end to the nation’s 239-year-old dynasty of Shah kings was postponed by four hours after the seven ruling parties failed to reach an agreement on the new representatives to be nominated to the constituent assembly as well as the role of the newly created head of state.

Cadres of the Young Communist League, the militant youth wing of the Maoists, began gathering at the public square near the palace in a bid to mount pressure on King Gyanendra to vacate the palace soon after the official declaration of a republic.

They waited grim-faced near the statue of King Tribhuvan, the grandfather of King Gyanendra. The statue was vandalised by irate mobs in a pro-democracy revolt in 1990, causing security personnel to fire, killing some of the demonstrators.

To pre-empt any untoward incident at the palace gates, security was beefed up along the palace and private residence of beleaguered King Gyanendra.

From late Tuesday night, special commando forces of the Nepal Army, that had in the past fought the Maoist guerrillas, were rushed to the Narayanhity palace to stop mob attacks.

The Maoists, who fought a 10-year guerrilla war to overthrow the king and are now poised to head the new government, have been assembling their cadres in the capital to stage a show of might Wednesday and intimidate the royal family into vacating the palace.

A senior Maoist leader however said that his party did not anticipate any serious opposition by the king.

“However, if he refuses to quit the palace, we will take constitutional and legal action against him,” said Maoist foreign affairs chief Chandra Prakash Gajurel.

The proclamation of republic, in anticipation of which Nepalis began celebrations from Tuesday and the government announced a three-day state holiday from Wednesday, was delayed after the rift between the seven ruling parties continued.

The 601-member constituent assembly that is empowered to officially end monarchy is yet to get full shape.

While 575 members were chosen by a mixed election last month, the parties failed to nominate an additional 26 members due to lack of consensus.

Though after several rounds of parleys they finally agreed Tuesday that the king, who was head of state, would be replaced by a ceremonial president without real powers, they are yet to reach an understanding on what the role of the president will be.

When the squabbling parties began a fresh round of negotiations Wednesday at prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s official residence, it was on the cards that the first meeting of the assembly would be delayed.

Dozens of foreign envoys, senior officials and prominent citizens who had queued up at the Birendra International Convention Centre since morning to attend the historic meet in the morning began trooping out again.

Rallyists who had started from the Basantpur Durbar Square, another public place where the Shah kings earlier had their palace, in anticipation of the declaration of a federal inclusive republic, were disappointed.

“It was the parties’ infighting that made the king seize power,” said Lokendra Baral, an engineering student who had come from the capital’s Koteshwor area to participate in the Republic Day celebrations.

“The parties seem to have forgotten their past lesson.”

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