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Nepalese King Gyanendra relinquished absolute control in April 2006
Nepalese King Gyanendra relinquished absolute control in April 2006Image: AP

Nepal Monarchy To Be Abolished

Anne Thomas
December 24, 2007

Months of political deadlock are ended and there is a degree of political optimism in the world's last Hindu monarchy. The Maoists have agreed to rejoin the government and a deal has been signed, which meets the Maoists' key demand -- the full abolishment of the monarchy.

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The government and the Maoists both say they look forward to free and fair elections by mid-April next year. Already this year, the elections have been postponed three times as an agreement about the monarchy and electoral reform could not be found.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told reporters Nepal would be declared a federal democratic republic in an interim constitution after next year's elections. But he also said that a republic could be declared before, in case King Gyanendra tried to disrupt the election process.

The king has already lost most of his powers and is no longer head of state or army chief but the Maoists want him completely stripped of power.

From insurgency to government

In early 2006, the former communist rebels came out of the jungle to join pro-democracy protests, which forced King Gyanendra to end his fourteen months of direct rule in April. The king relinquished absolute control and reinstated the House of Representatives.

In Nov. 2006 the Maoists signed a landmark peace deal, which ended their decade-long insurgency, during which 13,000 people died. They then joined the government, holding the ministries of information, communication and local development.

But they walked out in September when their political partners refused to meet their demands for an immediate republic and electoral reform.

New constituent assembly

As part of Sunday's deal, the Maoists have given up their demand for full proportional representation. The new constituent assembly will have 100 more members than before -- 601 in total.

Just over half of them will be elected by proportional representation. Most of the others will be elected according to the first-past-the-post system and 26 members will be nominated by parties.

Ethnic unrest

Some analysts have also recommended strongly that the government should address ethnic unrest in Terai -- the country's southern fertile plains -- if the path to the elections is to be smooth.

Half of Nepal's population lives in the region. Since the beginning of this year, about 200 people have died as the law-and-order situation in the region has deteriorated. Several armed groups demanding greater autonomy for the region have cropped up.

Last week, almost one hundred and fifty people were arrested in the region and in the capital Kathmandu on illegal arms charges. Incidents of looting, abduction, extortion and violence are on the increase. The government has deployed a special task force to deal with the situation.

Analysts explain that because of the focus on the Maoists in the peace process, other peoples and regions of Nepal, including Terai, have been neglected by the government.

Some ethnic groups have therefore turned to violence in order to draw attention to their plight. The Madhesi people for instance are campaigning against discrimination and have demanded proportional representation in government.

Long-lasting peace?

Therefore, experts say the issue of ethnic unrest needs to be addressed immediately if there is to be a long-lasting peace in Nepal.

Experts also warn that the way the 22-point deal is implemented is crucial. Similar deals in the past have amounted to nothing, they say.

Some fear the Maoists might make new demands before next year's elections take place.