28 May 2008

World's last Hindu monarchy ends


Today, Nepal's new constitutional assembly will hold its first meeting and end the monarchy, a key part of a 2006 peace deal with Maoist guerrillas who gave up the bullet for the ballot box on the condition that the country becomes a secular republic. The civil war lasted a decade and cost more than 13,000 lives.

The Maoists, who won last month's elections to become the largest party in Nepal's assembly, say that the monarch will have an "honourable exit", but the fall of King Gyanendra and the disappearance of the world's last Hindu monarchy has been dramatic.

In the past few months the word "Royal" has been dropped from the army and national airline. Gone from the national anthem are any references to the king. The royal family, consisting of the king, the queen, the queen mother, the crown prince and his wife and children, left their pink-hued palace in the centre of the capital last week for the last time.

There is little doubt that royal belts will have to be tightened. The monarch's state salary of $3m (£1.5m) has been revoked and the royal family's seven palaces are to be turned into museums. Even the queen was forced to give up her retinue of beauticians.

After today's vote the king, who once ruled by divine right, will be reduced to a commoner - albeit an extremely wealthy one with tea estates and tobacco holdings in the 12th poorest country in the world.

The Guardian - Nepalese monarchy on Wikipedia