Nepal: Republic begins, monarchy ends

Issue 

On May 28, Nepal entered a new era when the constituent assembly — in its first meeting since the April 10 elections — overwhelming voted to abolish the 240-year-old monarchy and declare Nepal a democratic republic.

The interim government that had governed Nepal for the previous three years declared Nepal to be a secular republic last year, but this had to be ratified by the assembly. In the assembly's first sitting, all but four members of the 564 members voted to officially create the Democratic Republic of Nepal.

The government declared three days of public holidays and celebrations immediately afterwards to welcome the change. Upon the announcement of a republic, impromptu rallies and celebrations broke out across the country.

Twenty thousand members of the Young Communist League — the youth movement of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), which won the largest number of seats in the assembly elections — have converged on the capital Kathmandu to help organise the celebrations and provide security from any violence at the hands of royalists, who detonated two bombs in the lead up to the assembly vote.

Modern Nepal was created by the Shah monarchy in the mid 18th Century, with the royal family autocratically ruling over the Nepalese people ever since. In 1996, the CPN-M launched a guerrilla war that lasted for a decade until 2006, when the pressure of the rural "people's war" and the wave of strikes and protests known as "Jana Andolan" (people's movement) finally forced the monarchy to relinquish power.

However, while a new day is dawning in Nepal, the path that the country is taking is anything but certain. While the elections showed that the CPN-M clearly has more support than any other party, it doesn't have an outright majority in the new assembly.

The established political parties, namely the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), are putting the entire peace process in jeopardy by going back on previous agreements in a desperate attempt to either exclude the CNP-M from power, or restrain its power so much as to make any Maoist government impotent.

The NC and the CPN-UML are trying to alter the interim constitution that was brokered by the United Nations Mission in Nepal between themselves and the Maoists. They didn't expect the Maoists to do so well in the elections, but with the mass of the peasantry throwing their weight behind the Maoists, the NC and the CPN-UML have been left in the wake of this wave of people's power.

Now their only option in order to maintain their power is to barstardise and butcher the democratic institutions they supposedly support.

But for now, the average Nepali is forgetting the challenges ahead and are celebrating the challenges they have overcome. People's power has defeated a 240-year-old monarchy.

[An interview with CPN-M leader Prachanda is featured on the socialist e-journal, Links. Visit http://links.org.au.]