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Nepal interim statute strips king powers

Kathmandu, Dec. 16: After intense talks spread over four days, top leaders of the ruling Seven-Party Alliance and the Maoist rebels signed the interim constitution which strips King Gyanendra of all his powers, perks and privileges.

The constitution was signed by Prime Minister G.P. Koirala and leaders of all eight political parties, including Maoist chief Prachanda.

The signing took place at Koirala’s official residence at 8.30 am today after negotiations that lasted the whole of last night.

Koirala did not take part in the night-long exercise due to ill health.

The interim constitution would be implemented once the UN-led team locks up the arms of the rebels and the Nepal army in accordance with the treaties signed by the alliance and the Maoists on November 21 and December 8 this year. Accordingly, the existing House of Representatives would be dissolved and a new parliament would come into force once the interim statute is promulgated.

The interim constitution has 25 parts, 167 articles and three annexes.

Significantly, the new constitution has been signed on the eve of Indian external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s one-day visit to Kathmandu tomorrow to invite Koirala for the Saarc summit. The signing comes as a huge relief for the Indian mission here which was caught in a dilemma over protocol to be followed by Pranab. Normally, he would have to make a call on King Gyanendra who was the head of state.

However, according to the new constitution the king has been stripped of all powers that he enjoyed under the 1990 statute. He will neither have any rights related to the country’s state affairs, nor any perks and privileges. The king also won’t be in control of the Nepal army. Instead, the Prime Minister will carry out all the work related to the country’s state affairs and administration. The fate of the monarchy would be decided by a simple majority during the first meeting of the constituent Assembly.

The new constitution allows the creation of a six-member National Security Council headed by Koirala and comprising the defence minister, the home minister and three ministers nominated by the Prime Minister. The council has been given powers to mobilise the army whenever required.

The constitution also stipulates that there would be a 330-member single house parliament. It would include 209 members from the existing House of Representatives and National Assembly, 73 from the Maoist rebels and 48 other members from professional organisations, Dalits, backwards region, women and political personalities.

The constitution states that the Constituent Assembly will also exercise the rights and authority enjoyed by the interim parliament.

The constitution stipulates that the proposed Constituent Assembly would have 425 members of which 409 would be elected. A total of 205 members would be elected on the basis of the first ballot and 204 members would be elected on the basis of proportional representation.

CPN (UML) leader Bharat Mohan Adhikari said that Nepal has now entered a new political phase which would determine its future. Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara described the interim constitution as a major achievement of the historic people’s movement.

“It has made the election to Constituent Assembly a certainty,” he said,adding that the interim statute would be issued within the next 10 days.

Arjun Narsingh KC, a senior Nepali Congress leader said the interim constitution is the end result of political agreements signed between the SPA and the Maoists on November 8 and Nov 21. "The interim constitution has effectively shifted all the privileges of the King to the Prime Minister. The King is totally powerless now," said.

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