Nepal's 'last king' to lose crown - Emirates24|7

Nepal's 'last king' to lose crown

Seven years after most of Nepal's royal family were massacred by a drunken prince, the country's Maoists look set to scrap the Himalayan monarchy, turning the page on 240 years of history.

An assembly elected in historic polls last month to write a new constitution for the impoverished country is set to make the move when it meets for the first time on Wednesday.

The glum-faced king Gyanendra, with his heavy-handed actions, bears responsibility for the distaste with which people - who once saw their rulers as incarnations of a Hindu god - now regard the monarchy, observers say.

"The king and his own family are to be blamed," said analyst Lok Raj Baral, who heads the Nepal Centre for Strategic Studies, a private think-tank.

"He never became a democratic king. He tried to be a one-man show."

The Nepalese accuse Gyanendra of a long list of failings and there are lingering suspicions surrounding his ascension to the throne after the palace tragedy.

He was crowned following the 2001 killing of his popular brother Birendra and most of the royal family by a drink-and-drug-fuelled crown prince who later killed himself.

Conspiracy theories link Gyanendra and his unpopular son Prince Paras to the massacre, with many Nepalese believing their absence or escape from the slayings point to possible complicity.

Paras's playboy reputation has also hurt the king, although his son is said to have become more spiritual, haunting the golf course instead of night clubs since a heart attack at 36.

"The son is even worse than the father. He also shouldn't be king," said tour guide Surendra Pandey.

Gyanendra has also been seen as out-of-touch with his people's desire for a bigger voice in government. As a Maoist revolt launched 12 years ago gained strength, he fired the government in 2005.

In 14 months of direct rule, he made scant headway against the insurgents fighting for a communist republic.

It was a royal miscalculation as pro-democracy protests by the political parties and the Maoists snowballed and the two sides, once bitter foes, drew closer together, forcing the king to return power in April 2006.

The parties and Maoists struck a peace deal and formed an interim government later in 2006, ending a conflict that claimed 13,000 lives.

In landmark polls last month, the Maoists grabbed the largest share of votes and won 220 seats in the 601-member constitutional assembly, a victory that appears to have sealed the king's fate.

Gyanendra, a shrewd businessman before he came to the throne, has also been accused of amassing substantial investments abroad.

"He lived off the sweat of the people," said another Kathmandu resident, 28-year-old Parbati Bohara, who works as a domestic help.

If the monarchy is abolished, it is not clear what the king, said to be keenly interested in poetry and the environment, will do next.

The Maoists say the king is welcome to remain in Nepal, provided he lives like an ordinary citizen in a private residence.

Commentators say it is unlikely this monarch - or any other - will get another chance to rule, bringing 240 years of monarchy to a close.

"He wasted all his opportunities," said analyst Baral. "His greed for power, his arrogance and autocratic nature damaged the image of the monarchy beyond repair."