Nepal abolishes monarchy to become a republic

NEPAL’S lawmakers abolished the monarchy and declared the country a republic yesterday, ending 239 years of royal rule in the Himalayan nation.

The newly-elected assembly, led by the former communist rebels, adopted the resolution at its first meeting by an overwhelming majority. King Gyanendra has been told to leave his palace in central Katmandu.

Across Katmandu, young men marched with red flags as Nepalis celebrated what many see as the culmination of a two-year peace process with the rebels that began after weeks of unrest forced the king to restore democracy.

Near the convention centre, where the Constituent Assembly was meeting, thousands chanted “Long Live the Republic!” and denounced Gyanendra.

There was no immediate reaction from the palace on the resolution. The country’s leading politicians have threatened to forcibly remove Gyanendra if he refuses to go peacefully.

But, in an apparent bid to defuse the potential standoff, the assembly was giving the king 15 days to vacate the palace in central Katmandu, said Bimalendra Nidhi of the centrist Nepali Congress after his party met with the Maoists — former insurgents — who hold the most seats in the assembly and are expected to lead the country’s new government.

The Maoists gave up their 10-year fight for a communist Nepal not long after, and the election of the assembly in April marked the culmination of the peace process with the former insurgents.

The assembly is charged with governing Nepal while it rewrites the constitution. On Tuesday, 575 of its members were sworn in.

Another 26 members are still to be appointed.

Political parties have made it clear their first act would be to declare Nepal a republic and do away with the 239-year-old Shah dynasty.

But getting rid of the monarchy is in many ways the least of the new government’s problems, as evidenced by a string of small bombings that hit Katmandu this week. All the bombs — none of which has caused any serious injuries or deaths — appeared to be aimed at pro-republic politicians and activists.

Authorities deployed 10,000 policemen in Katmandu to head off more violence.

The Maoists, meanwhile, say 20,000 volunteers from their youth wing are in Katmandu to help control the celebrations.

The Maoists have promised to bring sweeping change to Nepal.

If Gyanendra peacefully leaves the palace, he is expected to move to the palatial private Katmandu home where he lived before assuming the throne in 2001.

He ascended to the throne following a massacre at the palace in which a gunman gunned down King Birendra and much of the royal family before killing himself.


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