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Nepal Set to Become Republic

Posted April. 09, 2008 07:06,   


Monarchs in the world are rapidly disappearing from history.

The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal will hold general elections Thursday to form a parliament, signaling an end to the country’s 239-year-old monarchy. The neighboring country of Bhutan also held general elections on March 24 to bring down the curtain on a century of monarchy.

About three decades have passed since the last absolute monarchy was deposed; the Pahlavi Dynasty of Iran was overthrown in the 1979 revolution.

Among 210 countries in the world, only five give the king absolute power: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Brunei and Swaziland, according to The World Factbook of the U.S. CIA.

The Progressive Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank, estimated that the number of countries with a king, including constitutional monarchs, is 44. Twelve are in Europe; ten in the Americas; nine in the Middle East; seven in Asia; five in the Pacific region; and two in Africa.

The royal family plays a symbolic role in most of the 39 constitutional monarchies, including the United Kingdom and Japan. Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait and Monaco are the only countries where the king has the power to appoint the prime minister or cabinet.

In Nepal, the king exercised absolute authority until 1990, when a constitutional monarchy was introduced through a democratic movement. The royal family refused to give up their authority, however, causing armed conflict since 1996 between the government and Maoists demanding an end to the monarchy.

The price of resisting the Nepali monarchy has been high. The Independent of England said a breakthrough to end a decade of fighting that cost at least 13,000 lives came in late 2006, when the rebels agreed to put down their weapons and re-enter politics. On the contrary, the royal family of Bhutan voluntarily gave up power, bringing democracy without bloodshed.

In Nepal Monday, 11 people were wounded in a terrorist bombing in the capital of Kathmandu and the southern city Nepali. AFP said both the Nepali Congress, which supports the monarchy, and the Communist Party of Nepal, which the Maoists control, could resort to force if either side considers the results of the general elections unfavorable.

The International Crisis Group, a think tank on security, said in a report that Nepal will likely remain in turmoil even after the general elections due to political instability and violence.