In May, Nepal became a republic when the constituent assembly abolished the centuries-old monarchy and King Gyanendra had to leave his palace. But what has changed during the last half year? Have the people's aspirations been fulfilled?
Nagarjun Palace is the new residence of Nepal's deposed king Gyanendra
For the last few months, Nepal has been governed by a coalition led by the former Maoist rebels. The other major coalition partner is the moderate left party, the Unified Marxist Leninists or UML. The UML general secretary Jhal Nath Khanal says there have been lots of changes in Nepal since the monarchy has fallen:
„The most important thing is that there is the beginning of democratic rule in Nepal. The Nepalese people have got the opportunity to exercise their rights, which was no longer the case under the monarchy."
Nostalgia for the king
But some of the ministers from the period of King Gyanendra do not agree. They say there is a vacuum at the top because an institution with which the people and the country were affiliated for a long time has disappeared. According to them the country has become a republic, but the king has not been replaced by an equally respected institution. Ramesh Nath Pandey was foreign minister under king Gyanendra.
„People’s aspirations have not been met", he maintains. "People are becoming frustrated and there is a lot of challenge for us to meet the aspirations of the people to prepare the constitution on time -- because if we fail to prepare the constitution in time then there will be a complete vacuum, there will be a legal, constitutional vacuum, political vacuum. And that can again create chaos in the country! So, the situation is rather difficult."
Jhal Nath Khanal, for his part, says people should not doubt the leaders' determination to finish the new constitution on time: „We will begin the process of writing the constitution in November after the festival Tihar and we are very hopeful to write the constitution on time very easily within the coming 20 months."
Neglecting the constitution?
Neutral observers, too, do not seem very optimistic about the progress in writing the constitution. Kanak Dixit is a senior journalist and activist who played an important role in the People’s movement in Kathmandu which eventually led to the downfall of the monarchy.
„Everybody’s interest today is on issues of power sharing and integration and rehabilitation of maoist combatants", he observes. "These are all important matters but at the same time the writing of the constitution is more important than everything else. The Maoist leadership of the government of Nepal is allowing this matter to languish and this can only invite an extremely perilous crisis. I see this danger in the near future."
However, Dixit also points out that Nepal has achieved a lot already by ending the internal conflict which killed more than 14,000 people, and bringing the former insurgents back into the political mainstream.
But the challenge remains that the Nepali people have to take their own path to political stability which will bring economic growth, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development.