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South Asia Peace Initiative

A Democratic Republic of Nepal Is Born

A no-U-turn sign stands in front of the former Narayanhity Royal Palace in Kathmandu, Nepal, where press crews and people came on May 29, 2008, to see what was not there -- no royal flag was flying, as Nepal became a democratic republic one day earlier. (UPI Photo/Robert Kittel)KATHMANDU, NEPAL — Nepal’s newly elected Constituent Assembly declared this nation a democratic republic on May 28 and ended the monarchy that had ruled for the past 240 years.

Lawmakers voted 560 to 4 in favor of making Nepal an “independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular and inclusive democratic republic.” Eleven were absent or abstained.

This also brought to a conclusion the peace process which started in November 2005.

People celebrated and danced in the streets throughout the day as they waited for the final decision, which came only after more than ten hours of delays.

An effigy of the corpse of the king, representing the end of Nepal’s feudalism, was paraded through the streets of the capital, Kathmandu.

It was later burned, to the uproar of the crowd in front of Birendra International Convention Center, where members of parliament met. A heavy contingent of police and security forces looked on and did nothing.

King Gyanendra and his family will now become ordinary Nepali citizens – and start to pay taxes. All special royal privileges will be taken away.

The former royal family has 15 days to leave the Narayanhity Royal Palace, which will become a public museum. They will likely move to a private palace about eight kilometers from the capital.

Legal experts say the first act of the assembly may have circumvented the spirit of the law. In addition to the 575 elected members of parliament, 26 other members should have been appointed before convening the first session of parliament. The Interim Constitution calls for 601 members to be part of the Constituent Assembly.

“We cannot undermine the question of legitimacy when the nation is determined to abolish the monarchy through a legitimate manner,” said legal counsel Purna Man Shakya, according to Thursday’s Himalayan Times. However, he conceded that this is a technical glitch that will not likely be questioned.

Since early morning, people and press persons gathered in front of the future museum to see something that was not there – the royal flag no longer flew over the pink palace.

It is as if they were reassured by seeing this for themselves; the monarchy is really gone. Nepal is free and independent! But there is little gaiety, just silent contemplation.

People stood looking at the untouchable palace, ringed with high fences and double gates. The future of Nepal now lies elsewhere.

Executive powers will be held by the prime minister. This office will go to the leader of the CPN-Maoists, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, 53 – popularly known as Prachanda, “the feared one.”

The Maoists won the biggest number of seats (220) in the elections. But three parties, the Nepali Congress (110), CPN-UML (103) and the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (53), with a total of 266 seats can outnumber the Maoists. Obviously, winning an election and governing are not the same things.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, 83, briefly addressed the parliamentarians Wednesday evening, saying, “Our dream has come true, I think our nation’s dream has come true…Now we have a big responsibility.”

It is expected that Koirala may be Nepal’s first constitutional president. If so, he will have powers to impose a state of emergency on the recommendation of the Cabinet, whose members are still to be named.

Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, the leader of the Nepal Family Party, the smallest political party among the 25 parties represented in the Constituent Assembly, was asked to reflect on the meaning of this day.

“In the entire history of any nation,” he said thoughtfully, “this day comes only once. This is the dawn of a new nation. Nepal is now a republic.”

The elections not only shifted the center of power, they brought many new players to the political arena. “This time, big parties became small. Small parties became big,” said Dhakal.

Yet he stressed the need for the nation’s new leaders to remain humble. “Politicians do not always determine the fate of a nation. We must be aligned with the will of the people; we must listen to, learn from and be educated by the people.”

“We need to work with the people to participate in nation-building,” Dhakal added, noting, “This is not just the job of legislators. All citizens are owners of the new Nepal.”

 

Source: UPI Asia Online

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