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08KATHMANDU607 2008-05-29 11:00:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kathmandu
Cable title:  

CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY DECLARES NEPAL A REPUBLIC

Tags:   PGOV PTER ASEC NP 
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1. (SBU) Close to midnight on May 28, Nepal's Constituent
Assembly voted overwhelmingly to make the country a federal,
democratic republic and abolish the 240-year-old monarchy.
The Interim Government also tabled a bill to amend the
Interim Constitution to establish a ceremonial president as
the head of state. After holding its first meeting, the
Assembly recessed for a week to give the political parties
time to reach agreement on outstanding issues, including
amendments to the Interim Constitution, the creation of a new
Maoist-led government, the allocation of other top offices
and the appointment of 26 nominated Members of Parliament.
With a few notable exceptions, May 28 passed largely
peacefully.

Nepal Declared Republic, Monarchy Abolished


--------------------------





2. (U) Around 11:25 p.m. local time on May 28, Acting
Chairman of the Constituent Assembly (CA) Kul Bahadur Gurung
announced to the Assembly, the senior civil service, civil
society, the press and the diplomatic corps gathered in the
Birendra International Conference Center (BICC) in Kathmandu
that Nepal was henceforth a federal, democratic republic.
The motion stripped the monarchy of all special legal,
cultural, social and traditional rights and privileges and
directed King Gyanendra and his family to vacate Narayanhiti
Palace within 15 days. The vote to create the republic and
abolish the 240-year-old Shah dynasty was overwhelming. Out
of the CA's 564 members present, only four (all members of
the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) - Nepal) voted
against. Debate on the motion was kept short. Four Members
of Parliament (MPs) were authorized to speak for two minutes
each. The only MP to speak in favor of retaining the
monarchy, from RPP - Nepal, was cut off after he ran over a
few minutes. The Interim Government had already declared May
28-30 a holiday in anticipation of the republic declaration
and celebrations were ongoing all day.

Bill To Establish Presidency Tabled


--------------------------





3. (SBU) The other major business during the CA's first
session was the tabling of a bill to amend the Interim
Constitution to delete all references to the monarch and
establish a ceremonial president as head of state in his
place. Home Minister Krishna Sitaula from the Prime
Minister's Nepali Congress (NC) (who lost his election
contest) tabled the amendments on behalf of the Interim
Government. The draft bill provides that the President shall
be the supreme commander of the Nepal Army, and shall receive
the credentials of ambassadors. Other notable events during
the roughly two-hour meeting, which started after 9 p.m.,
more than 10 hours later than scheduled, included short
remarks by a frail-looking Prime Minister Girija Koirala,
which were read in full by his NC colleague Peace Minister
Ram Chandra Poudel, the reading by Chairman Gurung of a
congratulatory message from the Speaker of the Indian
Parliament, and the Assembly's adoption of interim procedures.

Assembly Recessed For A Week


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Gurung declared shortly before midnight that the
Assembly would be recessed until June 6. Senior politicians
indicated afterwards that the recess was intended to give the
political parties time to reach agreement on outstanding
issues. These include possible additional amendments to the
Interim Constitution to flesh out the respective powers of
the President and the Prime Minister, a change in the votes

KATHMANDU 00000607 002 OF 002


required to form or bring down a government and a revision to
the membership of the National Security Council. Among other
matters which have yet to be decided are the formation and
makeup of a new Maoist-led government and the related
question of allocating other top offices, including the
President, Vice President, Chairman and Vice Chairman.
Progress has been made in recent days on appointing the
Assembly's 26 nominated MPs, but, according to press
accounts, final agreement proved elusive on May 28.

May 28 Largely Peaceful


--------------------------





5. (C) May 28 passed largely without incident. A crowd of
approximately 1,000 pro-King demonstrators clashed with
pro-republic supporters in Ratna Park in central Kathmandu in
early evening. Around the same time, a small group of
demonstrators threw stones outside the BICC and were
teargassed by the police. Two pipe bombs exploded outside
the BICC later in the evening before the session began.
According to police sources, a suspect from Ranabir Sena, the
Hindu extremist group which claimed responsibility for other
recent bombings in Kathmandu, including two outside the BICC
the evening of May 26, was arrested at the BICC the evening
of May 28.

Comment


--------------------------





6. (C) Despite concerns that political differences might
prevent the parties from fulfilling their commitment to the
people of Nepal to declare the country a republic as planned,
in the end they kept their word. By the time the Constituent
Assembly abolished the monarchy, many Nepalis had probably
gone to sleep. The repeatedly delayed proceedings and
lackluster speech by the Prime Minister certainly did not
inspire confidence that a new era for Nepal had begun. The
session was also notable for the absence of any public role
by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka Prachanda). He
joined the MPs in applauding with obvious delight when the
monarchy was officially abolished, but other than casting
their votes, he and his party comrades spent nearly the
entire session in their seats observing the goings-on. Post
is pleased that the events of May 28 passed largely without
incident, but Nepal's political transition is far from over.
POWELL