Time running out for Nepal ahead of republic

May 27th, 2008 - 1:16 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 27 (IANS) Nepal remained mired in uncertainty Tuesday with major parties failing to reach a deal on power-sharing and giving full shape to the newly elected assembly, a day before it shakes off its ancient line of kings and becomes a republic. Despite elaborate arrangements made to swear in the new constituent assembly at 1 p.m. Tuesday, the parties had failed to nominate the additional 26 representatives needed to give full shape to the body even after holding two rounds of negotiations.

The Maoists and the two other major parties, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, remained deadlocked over who would replace King Gyanendra as head of state from Wednesday, when the newly elected constituent assembly will proclaim an end to Nepal’s 239-year monarchy.

The Maoists, who emerged as the largest party after last month’s historic election, are demanding the posts of both prime minister and president. They are rooting for an executive president, a process that will require time since the constitution will have to be amended to accommodate a president.

Till then, they want their chief Prachanda to be the all-powerful prime minister.

However, the other two are pushing for a ceremonial president as head of state to replace King Gyanendra. In addition, the two parties also want a major change in the constitution so that a new government can be ousted by simple majority in the assembly instead of the current two-third required.

Besides an agreement on these issues, the parties will also have to nominate 26 members to the constituent assembly ahead of the swearing-in Tuesday.

A committee formed of representatives from the major parties that was asked to recommend new names failed to resolve the matter. Even two rounds of parleys between the ruling parties, that continued late Monday, failed to break the deadlock.

A second committee Tuesday began the nomination negotiations. Once they finish, the names will have to be tabled before the cabinet for its approval.

It is a bad start to Wednesday’s historic first meeting of the assembly, when King Gyanendra will be officially declared the last king of the ruling Shah dynasty and be asked to vacate the royal palace.

The parties are yet to make public what arrangements they have made for the transition to a republic, especially regarding the security of the royal family.

The Maoists, who waged a 10-year war for the abolition of monarchy, want the king to return to Nirmal Niwas, the private residence where he lived before he became king.

The palace, along with six more royal mansions, will be taken over by the state.

While some civil society members are demanding that the Narayanhity royal place, a major tourist attraction, be turned into a museum, others want it to become the presidential residence.

If the latter proposal is implemented, one could see Maoist chief Prachanda, who spent over a dozen years underground with an international alert for his capture, being installed in the seat of the royals.

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