For a brief while early this year, it seemed that Nepal had stopped drifting, as the Maoists joined other parties in parliament and the country took some major strides towards democracy. But, alas, current goings-on suggest there could be more turmoil in store. Last Monday, the Maoists reportedly rejected Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s efforts to get King Gyanendra to abdicate in favour of his five-year-old grandson, Hridayendra, before the polls scheduled for later this year. Maoist chief Prachanda rules out accepting the monarchy in any form — even if it is a ceremonial position without any actual power.
This is not surprising, considering that the former rebels, who waged a 10-year rebellion against the monarchy before joining the mainstream, never made any bones about abolishing monarchy in all forms. Gyanendra is inarguably one of the most unpopular monarchs in the world, after pro-democracy protests led by a political alliance that included the rebels ended his authoritarian rule in April 2006. Stripped of his powers, he has since been waiting for the special assembly to be elected in November, which is expected to draft a new constitution and decide on the fate of the monarchy.
What is surprising though is the way democratic parties are succumbing to pressure from an alliance of communist parties that is obviously in a hurry to trash the monarchy. The interim Parliament adopted a resolution just last week, empowering itself to remove the King if he tries to sabotage the polls, provided a two-thirds majority supported the move. So at this point it would be quite undemocratic if the monarchy were arbitrarily dismissed by a parliament that itself is interim, and which was constituted to hold elections. Now that it’s clear that the Maoists won’t allow the smooth functioning of any administration till a final political dispensation is reached, the parties must set their house in order. After all, it was their squabbling that enabled the king to stifle dissent and strengthen the monarchy in the first place.