May 15, 2006

Nepal parties delay checking king’s powers

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's seven mainstream parties put
off a plan on Monday to table a landmark resolution in
parliament to curtail the powers of the king, including taking
away his control of the army.

The proclamation, which is expected to override the
existing 1990 constitution, would now be tabled after an
expansion of the cabinet and a debate there, political party
leaders said after a three-hour meeting.

It was expected to be presented to parliament on Thursday,
the leader of one of the parties said.

"The cabinet is not complete yet. By Tuesday or Wednesday
it will be expanded and the expanded cabinet will give a final
shape to the draft and it will be presented to parliament,"
said Madhav Kumar Nepal, general-secretary of the Communist
Party of Nepal (UML).

Cutting the king's powers was a key demand of pro-democracy
protesters during weeks of demonstrations last month which led
to King Gyanendra reinstating parliament and handing over
administration to a multi-party government.

The proclamation is expected to wrest control of the army
from the king and give it to parliament.

But independent Kantipur TV said some politicians were not
comfortable with the idea of also stripping the king of his
formal title of supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces.


The administration would no longer be known as "His
Majesty's Government" and the king's key advisory body, the Raj
Parishad or privy council, is likely to be abolished.

Besides, the draft aims to tax the king's income and
property and allow his actions to be challenged in court.

"This will be above the constitution," said Lila Mani
Pokharel, a legislator. "The provisions of the existing
constitution that contradict the proposed proclamation will be

"No one will be able to challenge this because it has the
force and backing of the popular movement for democracy," he
said, referring to last month's protests.

Political parties are also under pressure to turn Nepal,
the world's only Hindu nation, into a secular state.

Some two dozen protesters with placards saying "Declare
Nepal a secular state" pinned to their chest demonstrated
outside the venue of the seven-party meeting.

King Gyanendra came into direct conflict with political
parties after he sacked the government and assumed power in
February 2005 saying the parties had failed to tackle a Maoist

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.

New Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has matched a
rebel ceasefire which the king had earlier rejected and invited
the Maoists for talks.

The parties and the Maoists have agreed to hold elections
to an assembly to draft a new constitution and decide the
future of the monarchy. But no dates have been set for the