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18 May 2024

Nepal's parliament votes to abolish monarchy

By Agencies

Nepal’s parliament voted on Friday in favour of abolishing the centuries-old monarchy and turning the Himalayan nation into a republic.

More than two thirds of parliament voted in favour of amending an interim constitution to end the monarchy after an agreement by the main political parties was reached earlier this week, said Speaker Subash Nembwang.

Friday’s vote ensures the king will be removed immediately after elections in April for a constituent assembly, which is charged with rewriting Nepal’s constitution.

The amendment passed on Friday will make Nepal a federal democratic republic and all powers of state will be held by the prime minister, Nembwang said. It also marks the end of the world’s last Hindu monarchy.

“Today’s vote has made sure the king will be removed immediately after elections,” Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said.

The main political parties, including former rebels widely known as Maoists, signed an agreement this week to abolish the monarchy, a heated issue that caused the communists to pull out of the government.

King Gyanendra, who heads a dynasty that dates to 1769, dismissed Nepal’s parliament and seized total power in February 2005, claiming he needed to clean up corruption in government and end the long-running communist insurgency.

Instead, however, rebel attacks escalated, the economy faltered and Gyanendra used heavy-handed tactics to silence opposition, while banning criticism of himself, his government and the army.

The power grab was ultimately his undoing as the resulting unrest brought his enemies together, stoked the anger of an already wary public, and put Nepal on the road to becoming a republic.

A violent uprising in April 2006 forced Gyanendra to restore parliament, which later stripped him of his powers, his command over the army, and his immunity from prosecution.

The communist rebels then gave up their decade-long armed revolt last year and joined a peace process, after more than 13,000 people died in the fighting.

The Maoists entered parliament in January 2007 and joined the government three months later, but withdrew in September demanding the immediate removal of the king. Since then Nepal has faced a deepening political crisis.

For centuries, Nepal’s monarchy held absolute sway over the country. The line of Gyanendra’s ancestors have been traditionally considered reincarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu, to be venerated by their subjects.

However, that wasn’t the case for Gyanendra. His tumultuous reign began in 2001 after a palace massacre, in which the crown prince was accused of gunning down King Birendra and much of the royal family, before killing himself. (AP)