Monday, January 7, 2008

Supporters rally for Nepal's king

Supporters rally for Nepal's king
Supporter of King Gyanendra at Monday's rally
The king's supporters have recently had little to cheer about
Hundreds of supporters of King Gyanendra of Nepal have staged a protest in Kathmandu against plans to abolish the monarchy.

Correspondents say it was the first public show of support for the king since he was forced to give up his absolute powers in 2006.

Nepal is due to be declared a republic after elections scheduled for April.

Gyanendra's dynasty dates back to 1769, but he lost popular support when he sacked the government in 2005.


"Save the nation! We love our king!" shouted about 1,500 protesters as they paraded through the centre of Kathmandu, blocking traffic for hours.

Police kept a close watch over the demonstrators but there were no reports of violence.

Gyanendra at ceremony
Gyanendra has only months left as king

The protesters congregated outside the prime minister's office where they waved flags of the monarchist National Democratic Party of Nepal (NDPN), which organised the rally.

They were angry over the decision last month by seven of the country's main political parties to turn Nepal from a monarchy into a republic after the April elections.

The vote in parliament was part of a peace deal with former Maoist rebels who left the government in September, vowing not to return unless the monarchy was scrapped.

They rejoined the coalition government last week.

Overwhelming majority

"We were quiet and patient for a long time, but we have been compelled to come out in the open to save our nation," demonstrator Kamal Thapa of the NDPN told the AP news agency.

"How can these so-called main political parties decide for the entire nation to remove a 240-year-old monarchy from the country?" he asked.

King Gyanendra of Nepal (R) is greeted by supporters during his visit to the Nawa Durga Hindu Temple in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
King Gyanendra has been keeping a low profile

A spokesman for Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress party said the protesters had the right to demonstrate, but that it would not save the monarchy.

"In a democracy every individual or organisation has the right to express their views in a peaceful matter... But the decision we reached in removing the monarchy is what the people want. If they (the monarchists) don't like it, they can challenge it by taking part in the election," he said.

The decision last month to make Nepal a "federal democratic republican state" was taken by an overwhelming majority - 270 MPs out of 371 voted to abolish the monarchy, with only three against.

The king has now been stripped him of his powers, his command over the army, his immunity from prosecution - and is soon likely to lose his title.


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