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Nepal's parliament moves to quash king's powers

Written by: Staff

Kathmandu, May 14: Nepal's seven main political parties are planning to strip the king of most of his powers, especially control over the army, and declare the parliament supreme, they said.

Nepal's new parliament is expected to take up a resolution tomorrow, or soon after, on sweeping proposals after more than a year of often violent protests in the streets of the capital Kathmandu and elsewhere.

The protests reached a crescendo last month forcing the king to return power back to the political parties -- a year after he had sacked an elected government and assumed absolute power.

At least 17 people were killed and thousands hurt in last month's protests while 38 people were reported missing.

Nepal's new parliament has already approved a plan by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to hold elections for a ''special assembly'' to write a new constitution.

The resolution is being discussed by Nepal's seven main political parties for presentation in parliament and Speaker Subas Nemwang said late yesterday, the ''special declaration'' was expected to be presented on Monday.

''The idea of the resolution is to curtail the king's power,'' a top political leader, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.

It could wrest the king's control over the Royal Nepalese Army and give it to parliament, also changing its name to the Nepal Army, Rajendra Pandey, a senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), the nation's second-biggest party, said.

The king is also set to loose the ''His Majesty's'' tag to the government which may simply be renamed the Nepal government.

''These are not personal institutions of the king,'' Pandey told Reuters. ''We want to change their names and make them the people's institutions.'' Also on the agenda is scrapping the Raj Parishad or Privy Council, a key advisory body of the king.

King Gyanendra had sacked the government in February 2005 on the grounds it had failed to curb a Maoist revolt. However, a year later, analysts and political parties said the king had miserably failed to bring peace to the country. The Maoists have been fighting a bloody war against the king for more than a decade in which over 13,000 people have been killed.

Koirala has matched a rebel ceasefire which the king had earlier rejected and invited the Maoists for talks.

The invitation has been accepted by the elusive Maoist chief, Prachanda, who said yesterday he would meet Koirala but only after hundreds of Maoist prisoners were freed.

Last week, the government detained five ministers of the former royalist regime, and suspended the country's top bureaucrat and nine senior police officers. The decision has been criticised by a human rights group as a ''misuse'' of power.


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