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Nepal's Parliament Slashes Monarch's Power

Nepal's parliament has unanimously passed a landmark resolution calling for the monarchy's powers to be slashed, and reducing the king to a ceremonial figurehead. The move comes nearly a month after a massive pro-democracy campaign forced King Gyanendra to give up the governmental powers he had seized, and reinstate parliament.

The historic resolution approved by Nepal's parliament is a first step towards taking control of the army from the king, and stripping him of the authority to make final decisions on major national issues. It sets the stage for scrapping the king's principal advisory body, allowing his actions to be challenged in court, and forcing the monarchy to pay taxes.

The resolution also envisions removing the royal titles from the government and the army. It will no longer be "His Majesty's Administration," but simply the Nepal government, and the Nepalese Army will no longer be "Royal."

The resolution was passed unanimously by the 205-member house. Officials say a series of laws will have to be enacted in the coming days to formalize the changes.

Presenting the resolution, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said it represents the aspirations of the people. There is strong popular demand for clipping the powers of the King, who became highly unpopular after he took control of the government last year. He reinstated parliament last month after weeks of violent anti-monarchy protests.

The editor of Samay magazine in Kathmandu, Yuvraj Ghimire, says the proclamation paves the way for a symbolic role for the monarchy.

"They are clearly headed for a government where the monarchy would not be very effective in governance," he said. "So basically a transformation from a feudal or semi-feudal society, towards a more people's-oriented and representative kind of set-up."

Political analysts say it was possible for King Gyanendra to stage last year's coup because Nepal's current constitution allows a fairly large role for him in politics, and gives him control of the army.

The constitution also stipulates that no parliamentary bill can become law until the king signs it. But Nepal's political parties insist the resolution reflects the will of the people, and cannot be challenged.

For now, the king only faces a diminished role, but the future of the monarchy itself hangs in the balance. Nepal will hold elections in the coming months to choose a body that will draft a new constitution, which will redefine the king's status.

The monarch in Nepal has been revered as a divine reincarnation of a Hindu god for centuries, but after the king's power grab, many people now favor scrapping the monarchy altogether, and turning the country into a republic.