May 18, 2006

Nepal parliament moves to curtail king’s powers

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's parliament was set to pass a
special resolution on Thursday that aims to curtail the king's
powers and wrest control of the army from the monarch.

"The special proclamation will be presented in the
parliament on Thursday and passed," Home Minister Krishna
Prasad Sitaula said.

Ahead of the parliament meet, scheduled for 3 p.m. (0915
GMT), the multi-party cabinet approved the resolution, Deputy
Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli told reporters.

He gave no further details but under the current
constitution, no parliamentary bill can become law until the
head of state -- the king -- signs it.

The proclamation aims to strip the king of his formal title
of supreme commander-in-chief of the military, and call an end
to "His Majesty's" administration, renaming it simply the Nepal

Cutting the king's powers was a key demand of last month's
pro-democracy protests, which led to King Gyanendra reinstating
parliament and handing power back to a multi-party government.

"It is a parliament without opposition and the adoption of
the resolution will not be a problem," said Yubaraj Ghimire,
editor of the news magazine, Samay.

What could be problematic is that, according to the
political parties, any provision in the existing constitution
or laws that contradict the resolution will be invalid, he

"This cannot happen because such a resolution cannot have
the force of a law," Ghimire said. "At most, it can only be
seen as a collective intent of the house."

Sitaula did not spell out how the proposals intend to
reduce the king's powers but party officials said the
resolution was expected to empower the parliament to make laws
relating to the king and put the 90,000-member army under
parliament's control.

The principal advisory body of the king, the Raj Parishad
or privy council, is also expected to be scrapped.

The government on Thursday banned protests in the heart of
the capital and around key government buildings, two days after
hundreds of people protested in front of the central
secretariat building against the delay in clipping the king's

King Gyanendra triggered the crisis when he sacked the
government and assumed full powers on February 1 last year,
saying the government had failed to quell an anti-monarchy
Maoist revolt that has killed more than 13,000 people.

The new government has reciprocated a rebel truce, and the
Maoists have agreed to talks.

Nepal has been quiet since the ceasefires were declared, a
welcome respite from months of widespread civil unrest and
years of fighting between soldiers and Maoists that killed
thousands and left the aid and tourism-dependent economy in

Officials expect a jump in the number of foreign tourists
visiting the country -- home to eight of the world's 14 highest
mountains including Mount Everest -- if the largely
rebel-controlled countryside remains calm.

The parties and rebels now face months of hectic political
activity as they work toward holding elections to a promised
assembly that will draft a new constitution and decide the
monarchy's future.