Nepal votes to end centuries-old monarchy

/ Source: The Associated Press

Nepal's parliament voted Friday in favor of abolishing the centuries-old monarchy and turning this Himalayan nation into a republic.

More than two-thirds of parliament voted in favor of amending an interim constitution to end the monarchy after an agreement by the main political parties was reached earlier this week, said Speaker Subash Nembwang.

Friday's vote ensures the king will be removed immediately after constituent assembly elections scheduled for mid-April next year. Those elected to the assembly will be charged with rewriting Nepal's constitution.

The amendment passed Friday will make Nepal a federal democratic republic and all powers of state will be held by the prime minister, Nembwang said.

"Today's vote has made sure the king will be removed immediately after elections," Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said.

The main political parties, including former rebels widely known as Maoists, signed an agreement this week to abolish the monarchy, a heated issue that caused the communists to pull out of the government.

Power grab was king's undoing
King Gyanendra — who heads a dynasty that dates to 1769 — dismissed Nepal's parliament and seized total power in February 2005, claiming he needed to clean up corruption in government and end the long-running communist insurgency.

The power grab was his undoing and the resulting weeks of unrest brought his enemies together, stoked the anger of an already wary public, and put Nepal on the road to becoming a republic.

A violent uprising in April 2006 ultimately forced Gyanendra to restore parliament — which later stripped him of his powers, his command over the army, and his immunity from prosecution.

The communist rebels gave up their decade-long armed revolt last year and joined a peace process, after more than 13,000 people died in the fighting.

The Maoists entered parliament in January 2007 and joined the government three months later, but withdrew in September demanding the immediate removal of the king. Since then Nepal has faced a deepening political crisis.