Nepal in transition: abolishing the monarchy

Santosh Giri [advocate/human rights lawyer, Supreme Court of Nepal]: “The abolition of Nepal’s nearly 240-year-old monarchy and declaration of Nepal as a “federal, democratic, republican state” was made by an overwhelming majority in the interim parliament late last month. 270 members in the 329-member House of Representatives voted on December 27, 2007 in favor of ending the monarchy (3 pro-monarchists cast against the motion while the rest abstained). However, Nepal will become a republic only after the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly, which is due to be elected by mid-April next year. The decision also serves to put the peace process back on track and paves the way for elections notwithstanding the fact that elections have been postponed three times since June 2006. Constituent Assembly seats has been increased from 497 to 601, of which 335 (58%) will be elected on the basis of proportional representation, with 240 to be directly elected and 26 to be nominated by the country’s cabinet.

Background

Since 1990 restoration of democracy, there were 3 elections in 1991, 1996 and 1999. Numerous governments were formed and numerous failed. The parliament was dissolved in 2002 which paved way for an absolute monarchy again. In 2005, the king staged a coup d’état. Seven major political parties united and formed an alliance with the Maoists to overthrow the king in April 2006 after dozens of innocent killings. In April 2006, the king restored the parliament which eventually led to abolishment of the monarchy. The November 2006 agreement between the political parties and the Maoists came as a peace pact which enabled a cease-fire and temporarily ending the conflict in which more than 13,000 people died since 1996. In January 2007 the Maoists entered the parliament and the cabinet in April 2007. In September 2007, the Maoists walked out of the government citing differences and demanding fulfillment of their demands of abolishment of monarchy and restructuring of the electoral system. They also threatened to quit the parliament in December 2007 if their demands were not met. Meanwhile the Constituent Assembly elections were postponed thrice, firstly citing lack of preparedness, secondly unfavorable security situation and thirdly the Maoists opposition. In December 2007, a new accord was signed which agreed on both demands and the Maoists reentered the cabinet. In December 2007, the parliament with a majority decision abolished the monarchy (subjected to ratification by the Constituent Assembly Parliament) and restructured the electoral system.