Secular Republic of Nepal is born

Yubaraj Ghimire
May 29, 2008

Kathmandu, May 28: Half an hour before the stroke of midnight today, Nepal became a Republic. The transition to "a secular, federal, democratic, republic nation" was formalised with a resolution moved by Home Minister K P Sitaula and right away passed by 560 votes against four by the newly-sworn in Constituent Assembly.

Minutes later, the Royal Standard flying atop the Narayanhiti palace — home to five kings so far — was brought down by palace officials.

The transition to a democracy means abolition of the monarchy and dethronement of King Gyanendra, with all the privileges of the royal family taken away with immediate effect. He will have no rights in social, political, cultural or religious fields more than what any Nepali citizen is entitled to.

However, constitutional experts raised some concern about the speed with which the resolution was passed, without members being allowed to record their objections. "It is unheard of, unacceptable and unconstitutional that such an important resolution was passed in such a shabby manner," constitutional lawyer Bipin Adhikari told The Indian Express.

Earlier, the meeting of the Constituent Assembly, at the Birendra International Convention Centre, was postponed twice due to late-minute political wrangling. Scheduled to begin at 11 am local time, it began after 9 pm as the ruling parties and Maoists argued over who should be the President of the new Republic.

Ultimately, a consensus was reached that the monarchy would be abolished with immediate effect, and the roles and jurisdiction of the president would be decided later. The resolution was finally moved by the Assembly around 9.45 pm. In a brief speech read out by his Cabinet colleague Ram Chandra Poudel, Prime Minister G P Koirala said Nepal's new challenges were peace, stability and economic development.

The resolution said that May 28 will be celebrated as the Republic Day of Nepal every year. There will be president who will be the head of the state while the Prime Minister will be the executive head.

Gathered on the streets of Kathmandu, singing and dancing in anticipation of the historic change, the crowds outside the Birendra International Convention Centre grew restive as the wait for the meeting dragged on into the night. Inside, diplomats and representatives of international communities also spent the entire day waiting.

A couple of explosions outside the venue injected further fear and uncertainty. Police said at least one person had been arrested and was being interrogated.

All through the day, top leaders of the Maoists, Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist shuttled between the centre and the Prime Minister's residence to sort out last-minute differences.

While the Congress and UML were in favour of a president with emergency powers who would also be the supreme commander of the army, the Maoists preferred the current system in which the Prime Minister also acts as the caretaker president.

When the meeting finally began, pro-tem Speaker K B Gurung of the Congress refused to entertain objections from members over curtailing of members' right to record their opinion on such an important matter. He said the members would be given a chance to do so after the voting.

• Constituent Assembly votes 560-4, makes history
• King now a commoner, Royal flag brought down
• Concerns over manner in which motion passed

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