by Chiranjibi Paudyal
American Reporter Correspondent
May 19, 2008
THE END OF MONARCHY LOOMS IN NEPAL
LONDON, May 18, 2008 -- The "I am the state" concept of monarchy in Nepal is in mortal peril today as the nation's newly resurgent political parties prepare to abolish its 240-year-old monarchy.
The government is almost certain to implement parliament's endorsement and declare Nepal a declare a federal democratic republic on May 28.
The Himalayan kingdom's people have clearly given a mandate to the political parties to do so min the recently concluded elections for its new Constituent Assembly.
In the assembly, the Maoist Party has emerged as the largest, with 220 seats in the 601-seat body, including 120 seats in "the first past the post," a system in which a single winner is chosen in a constituency after gaining more votes than any other candidate, avoiding runoffs between highest vote-getters.
One of the reasons for the Maoists' success in the election was that it was clear about the issue of monarchy. "Republic without any compromise" was its slogan, and people trusted that if Maoists came to power the monarchy would be abolished.
The only party contesting the election with an intent to retain constitutional or ceremonial monarchy, Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal, did not win a single seat in the direct voting.
The very concept of monarchy is dictatorial, though most of the countries became constitutional or ceremonial monarchies like Great Britain`in the 20th Century or earlier. The fundamental principle of absolute monarchy was plainly described by Louis XIV of France. He had famously said, "L'etat, c'est moi," or, "the State is me."
That state of things could not last long, and monarchy soon became history in France. Nepal remained an autocratic monarchy for 240 years, except between 1990 to 2002.
Nothing seemed to touch the heart of the Nepalese royal family unless it involved their retaining or gaining more power. The monarchy, it seemed, did not resolve but created conflicts, violence and political wrangling. People felt that the monarchy was on constant guard for opportunities to grab power from the people.
The monarchy lost the credibility and trust of the Nepalese people as it showed itself a power-hungry institution. Neither could it guide the nation into becoming a prosperous country, nor maintain an environment of peace.
The monarchy became the symbol of conspiracy and a fountain of backwardness, losing all relevance. That was especially due to the dictatorial ambitions of King Gyanendra and ruffian nature of the crown prince.
Nepal royalty did learn from the examples of benevolent, constitutional monarchies of Japan, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium other nations where monarchies are revered institutions even today.
Despite this, unity on all sides was essential to help democracy flourish, speed the pace of economic development and present to the world an image of Nepal as a peaceful nation.
To maintain that environment, consensus among the major political parties, including the royalists, became inevitable.
It is also equally important that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. There must be a guarantee that the people's rights are not snatched away and that democracy, too - like much of the royal family was, by one of its own in 2001 - is not murdered.
By declaring itself a republic through the Constituent Assembly, Nepalis believe that Nepal can present a new model for changing political power through peaceful means.
Though there are some examples of removing monarchy through peaceful means, as in Greece in 1967, there is still fear that the monarchy will not accept the decision of the Constituent Assembly, will not leave the royal palace, or may even plot to come back when the political parties eventually divide.
That does not seem possible right now, as the awareness of the people is so high that no force cannot go against the wishes of the people. There is virtually a complete political consensus that democratic values and norms in every decision-making process must be introduced in Nepal.
"Neither execution nor exile" seems to be the perfect middle path to find a solution in Nepal. Pioliticians say the King should understand the reality of the present-day world. There is no need to worry about the loss of throne.
As we know, almost all the countries in the world were ruled by monarchs in the past. With the passing of time, fewer than 40 countries have monarchies at present.
Over a dozen countries are ruled by Queen Elizabeth of England. Only a few countries of Asia, like Japan and Thailand, and others in the Middle East, Europe and Africa have monarchies. Among them, almost all are constitutional or ceremonial monarchy without any power. There are certainly exceptions, like the Saudi Arabian royal House of Saud, whose royalty both rule and largely own the entire country.
Morocco and Bhutan understood the reality of the present-day world and became constitutional monarchies recently. Only for a few small countries on the African continent, and a few in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia, Oman and Brunei, have autocratic monarchy. Others have changed drastically in the last 50 years.
At the time, Iran was a prosperous country rich with oil resources and an ancient cultural tradition and civilization. But as the reign of Shah abruptly ended, he said, "I did not understand when people were with me, and now I understand but people are not with me." That also applies to the monarchy of Nepal.
Though the Tsars of Russia were executed when the Communists took power, there are many examples in the world where monarchies have been ousted without any violence.
King Peter was deposed by the communist government in Yugoslavia in 1945, King Michael of Rumania was forced to abdicate at gunpoint by its communist government, Tsar Simeon of Bulgaria was deposed by the communist assembly in 1946, and the`military deposed King Constantine of Greece in 1967. That decision was formalized by a plebiscite in 1974.
Whatever decision the Constituent Assembly takes as to how to depose the monarchy in Nepal, the body must bear in mind that permanent peace, consolidation of democracy, prosperity, national defense and the maintenance of historic friendships, along with internal harmony and unity among the various ethnic communities of the country, must be the crowning glory of the new Nepal.
AR Correspondent Chiranjibi Paudyal, who is currently in London, covered the collapse of the monarchy and the rise of constituent democracy and the Maoist revolution from there for us since 1999.