The king is gone, long live the republic, say Nepalese

June 12th, 2008 - 11:27 am ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 12 (IANS) As the former kingdom of Nepal entered a new era with its deposed king Gyanendra handing over his crown, sceptre and throne to the government and making his final exit from the royal palace Wednesday night, the nation’s major parties hailed the event and ruled out the return of the crown. “The acceptance of the decision of the constituent assembly (to abolish monarchy) and peaceful exit from the palace is a positive sign,” said Maoist lawmaker Dinanath Sharma, whose party had fought a 10-year savage guerrilla war to overthrow the country’s 239-year-old monarchy, regarded by them as a feudal force responsible for the rampant poverty and inequality in Nepal.

“However, all feudal and regressive elements have not died with the departure of the king. Now cap-wearing kings are vying to take the crowned king’s place.

“We have a long and hard struggle ahead of us to implement the proclamation of a democratic republic.”

When King Gyanendra grabbed power with the army behind him in 2005 and tried to impose absolute rule in the name of bringing peace to an insurgency-racked nation, he became, willy-nilly, the instrument that united the parties and the Maoists, who began staging a united opposition to his regime.

Now however, with the end of kingship in Nepal, the rivalry between the Maoists and prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC), once the largest party in Nepal, has been stoked afresh with the former guerrillas accusing Koirala of trying to assume the absolute power the former king had surrendered.

“The (NC) party that won only 37 seats (out of the 240 directly contested seats in the constituent assembly) is now trying to grab the key posts and hold on to the government,” Sharma said, referring to the current impasse that has blocked the Maoists from forming the new government though they are now the largest party with 240 seats.

“That is the new feudalism in Nepal.”

Before he vacated the palace, 24 hours ahead of a 15-day deadline given to him by the new lawmakers, in an unprecedented move in the 239-year history of the crown, deposed king Gyanendra held a press conference in the palace, where he defended his power grab, saying he had no other motive than the welfare of the nation and a desire to help it retain its sovereignty.

He also warned that the country was now on the brink of a severe crisis and that he would continue to live in his motherland and work for the “greater welfare” of the nation and peace.

Sharma said it was the “natural reaction” of an institution that had been accustomed to being in the seat of power for more than two centuries.

“It is natural that when such an old and powerful institution bows out, it would express some rage and threats,” he said.

“As an ordinary citizen, he can acquire power through political means. But the old monarchy with its absolute power is dead and can’t be revived. You can’t make the waters of a river return to the source.”

The NC, a party that had in the past staunchly supported constitutional monarchy and distanced itself from the crown only after Gyanendra’s coup, also ruled out the return of the king.

“Under the changed circumstances, monarchy will not be able to resurrect itself in Nepal,” predicted Prakash Man Singh, the first NC lawmaker to have been declared elected in the April election.

Singh, whose father Ganesh Man Singh played a dominant role in the pro-democracy uprising in 1990, agreed with the Maoists that while Gyanendra could return to power as a citizen through a political process, he would never be able to sweep back to absolute power as king.

“”The crown has frequently attacked democracy,” Singh said, referring to an earlier coup by the deposed king’s father Mahendra, who sacked the elected government and banned political parties.

“Now regarded as the major factor for the violence and instability in Nepal, it has outlived the earlier perception of being a unifying force.

“All the parties that in the past supported monarchy have now withdrawn that support.”

It is being speculated that the deposed king, who starts life as a commoner from Thursday in a rundown royal retreat on the outskirts of the capital that was once used as a hunting lodge by his forefathers, would devote himself to his former business ventures.

He could also launch a new party or try other means of acquiring a say in national issues.

Maoist chief Prachanda said as a commoner the former king could do anything that was allowed by the law.

“He could contest elections,” Prachanda said.

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