In Nepal, the constituent assembly that is about to be elected intends to abolish the monarchy altogether. Nepalese voters are going to the polls for the first time in ten years on Thursday.
Maoist supporter at a rally during the election campaign in Kathmandu
Nepal’s most important political parties have all come to the conclusion that the monarchy has to go. Implementing this will be the Constituent Assembly’s first task. The word "royal" has already been removed wherever possible -- Royal Nepal Airlines is no longer royal and nor is the army.
The ball is now in the court of the parties. Especially that of the big parties, which ruled Nepal in the 1990s -- the Nepali Congress and the United Marxist-Leninist Communist Party -- more social-democratic than communist despite its name.
And the ball is also in the Maoists’ court after they have put down their arms after years of underground insurgency. These former rival parties are now all working together as part of the interim government.
Om, a Nepalese teenager, thinks that the Maoists have earned their chance. He thinks the other parties had theirs and didn’t do anything: "The Maoists rules are different from other rules. It is better that they can make equal availability for everything -- we can get good opportunity for employment. Like a republic country. They can make Nepal Switzerland I hope.…"
Generally, the Maoists have not received a good press with the media reporting about their attacks and threats against political opponents. But K.B. Rokaya, a member of the National Human Rights Commission, puts things into perspective:
"They have been carrying out this bloody armed struggle for the last 10-12 years, so their cadres were trained of course to fight. I personally feel satisfied with the level of discipline with the level of peaceful activities and methods used by this revolutionary party to put pressure on the government"
Discrimination an issue
One thing is certain -- it is the Maoists who have ensured that the problems of discrimination against large parts of the Nepalese population are now part of the political agenda.
Ramraj Neobane, a passerby in Patan, thinks addressing the discrimination is the greatest task that faces the Constituent Assembly: "We have so many castes, historical groups. They all have to be respected! The backward ethnic groups, the Newars and the Brahmin are all the same."
Almost no other country has as many different ethnic groups living together as Nepal. Constantly, a new group crops up calling for more rights and more power. This man has high hopes:
"The first thing we need is elections. This can only happen because we don’t have elections. The constitution that will now be drawn up has to address the matters these people are agitating about and calling for. The elections will solve everything."
Current government remains
Federalism will also be high on the agenda of the constituent assembly. But the elections won’t change the government itself that much. The current all-party government, a coalition of seven parties including the Maoists, will remain in power.
Experts believe the parties involved have discovered the advantages of reaching a broad democratic consensus and hope they will strive to maintain political unity over the next several years.