Friday, April 21, 2006

Nepal king returns power to people

Bowing under the pressure of street protests, Nepal's King Gyanendra relinquished absolute rule today. In a nationwide address, he said that power would be "returned to the people from this day forward."

Observers are waiting to see if the king's announcement will appease his opponents who have been calling for an end to the office altogether.

Gyanendra said that he was committed to "constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy" indicating possibly a return to the former state of things.

Protester holds up picture of King Gyanendra in Katmandu
Protester holds up picture of King Gyanendra in Katmandu while shouting slogans

However, this would still leave the king with the ability to remove any government at will. The constitutional monarchy in Nepal invests Gyanendra and his successors with more power than in most similar royal setups.

Also despite the seeming compromise, a harsh crackdown on his opponents continued with two prominent leaders arrested on Friday.

Huge street protests proceeded Friday with some 150,000 people marching in the suburbs of Katmandu despite a "shoot-to-kill" daytime curfew. Three people were killed Friday bringing the total dead since the beginning of the strike to 14.

Many of the marchers shouted for the end of the royal tradition, and some demanded the king's arrest.

Gyanendra will have a hard time staying in power even as a constitutional monarch with such a tarnished image. The prospect of his very unpopular son succeeding him also concenrs many Nepalis. Crown Prince Paras is known in Nepal as a heavy drinker with a haughty attitude to the common people.

Nepal unsure about King's statement

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