May 14, 2006

Nepal’s new parliament moves to quash king’s powers

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's seven main political parties
are planning to strip the king of most of his powers,
especially control over the army, and declare the parliament
supreme, they said.

Nepal's new parliament is expected to take up a resolution
on Monday, or soon after, on sweeping proposals after more than
a year of often violent protests in the streets of the capital
Kathmandu and elsewhere.

The protests reached a crescendo last month forcing the
king to return power back to the political parties -- a year
after he had sacked an elected government and assumed absolute

At least 17 people were killed and thousands hurt in last
month's protests while 38 people were reported missing.

Nepal's new parliament has already approved a plan by Prime
Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to hold elections for a "special
assembly" to write a new constitution.

The resolution is being discussed by Nepal's seven main
political parties for presentation in parliament and Speaker
Subas Nemwang said late on Saturday, the "special declaration"
was expected to be presented on Monday.

"The idea of the resolution is to curtail the king's
power," a top political leader, who requested anonymity, told

It could wrest the king's control over the Royal Nepalese
Army and give it to parliament, also changing its name to the
Nepal Army, Rajendra Pandey, a senior leader of the Communist
Party of Nepal (UML), the nation's second-biggest party, said.

The king is also set to loose the "His Majesty's" tag to
the government which may simply be renamed the Nepal

"These are not personal institutions of the king," Pandey
told Reuters. "We want to change their names and make them the
people's institutions."

Also on the agenda is scrapping the Raj Parishad or Privy
Council, a key advisory body of the king.

King Gyanendra had sacked the government in February 2005
on the grounds it had failed to curb a Maoist revolt. However,
a year later, analysts and political parties said the king had
miserably failed to bring peace to the country.

The Maoists have been fighting a bloody war against the
king for more than a decade in which over 13,000 people have
been killed.

Koirala has matched a rebel ceasefire which the king had
earlier rejected and invited the Maoists for talks.

The invitation has been accepted by the elusive Maoist
chief, Prachanda, who said on Saturday he would meet Koirala
but only after hundreds of Maoist prisoners were freed.

Last week, the government detained five ministers of the
former royalist regime, and suspended the country's top
bureaucrat and nine senior police officers. The decision has
been criticised by a human rights group as a "misuse" of power.