Nepal will scrap its almost 240-year-old monarchy on 28 May even as a palace envoy said King Gyanendra is asking to be allowed to retain a ceremonial role with “cultural and religious rights”.
The constituent assembly will vote to turn the Himalayan nation into a republic at its first meeting, after last month’s elections were won by former rebels who fought for 10 years to overthrow the monarchy. The date was announced by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Monday, Nepalnews.com said.
Kamal Thapa, the king’s unofficial envoy, met former rebel leader Prachanda on Monday and asked him to abide by an April 2006 accord when Gyanendra agreed to give up his “dictatorial” rule in return for assurances the monarchy would be kept intact, Nepalnews.com reported.
The rebels weren’t involved in the negotiations. Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) will lead a coalition government after winning most seats in the assembly in the 10 April parliamentary elections. The party insists the monarchy must end and the king quit the palace peacefully and become a “common citizen”.
Since the elections, there have been reports that Gyanendra may consider going into exile in India. The Royal Palace issued a statement in late April denouncing such speculation as “totally fabricated”, Nepalnews.com had reported at the time.
Gyanendra, 60, on Monday made his first public appearance since the elections, when accompanied by queen Komal, he offered animals for sacrifice at a temple outside of the capital, Kathmandu.
Gyanendra became king in June 2001, after his brother Birendra and relatives were killed by crown prince Dipendra. His popularity began to decline after he declared martial law in 2005.
The king was forced to return power to a civilian government in 2006 after Maoists declared a ceasefire and worked with political parties to oppose him.