| Nepalese communist party supporters at a protest meeting in Kathmandu on Monday. (AFP)
Kathmandu, April 24: The Nepalese people have brought their beleaguered monarch to his knees. King Gyanendra was forced to retreat by the people’s movement today.
In a late night announcement on state-run TV, he proclaimed that he was reinstating the parliament.
A grim King Gyanendra admitted that “state and power sovereignty were inherent in the people of Nepal”.
The king was forced to take public cognizance of “the wishes” of the “Jan Andolan (People’s Movement)”, which he mentioned twice in his short address, and the road map for peace, democracy and people’s welfare presented by the seven-party democracy alliance.
The king said the parliament, which he had dissolved on May 22, 2002, would now be reconvened on April 28 at 1 pm.
The proclamation made no mention of elections to a Constituent Assembly, the basic demand of the Maoists and the people. However, his recognition of the road map of the seven-party alliance implies election to a Constituent Assembly ' the final destination.
“Now the ball is in our court. We have to move cautiously but with determination towards a Constituent Assembly. This is only the first step,” said Shekhar Koirala of the Nepali Congress.
Former foreign minister Chakra Prasad Bastola described the king’s proclamation would pave the way for “resolving the 10-year-old Maoist insurgency”.
The king was forced to relent after 18 days of countrywide protests that left 15 dead and after his earlier offer was rejected by the people.
Yesterday, the king’s emissaries held secret talks with the political parties. King Gyanendra also consulted Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee last night.
After a quiet exchange of proposals with the parties yesterday, the king's secretary, Pashupati Bhakta Maharjan, today called on Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala. UN representative Mathew Kahane is believed to have helped in the exchange of proposals yesterday.
The king’s statement today was different from the offer he made last Friday. Today, by a clear reference to the Jan Andolan, he made it clear that the reinstatement of the parliament was not a gift from him but the outcome of a democratic movement.
Unlike last time, when he only offered to hand over state power to the people, he was forced today to declare that both “state authority and sovereignty” lay with the people. This settles an important question in Nepal of whether sovereignty lies in the crown or in the people.
Most important, the king was forced to regret the loss of lives in the agitation against him and wish speedy recovery of those injured by the security forces.
As for the instrument to be used for reviving the parliament, the king announced that it was a political decision. He did not act under Article 127 of the Nepalese Constitution (Power to Remove Difficulties in the implementation of the Constitution) or through the Supreme Court.
“This would make it easier for the parties also to take a political decision on announcing elections to a Constituent Assembly,” said a leader of the seven-party alliance.
The remaining big questions are: Will the Maoists accept this settlement publicly without any mention of a Constituent Assembly' Or, would they accept a commitment from the seven-party alliance that the moment the parliament is revived, they will announce a Constituent Assembly'
Then there are issues relating to lingering doubts about the extent to which the parties can trust King Gyanendra as well as about their own ability to rise to the occasion. If the are found wanting, they will lose the Maoists from the democratic process.
The parties would also have to decide on the powers of the king. “If they do not use this opportunity to clip his wings, there could be problems in the future,” said a political observer.