Nepal's Maoists stepped up demands yesterday for the immediate abolition of the Himalayan nation's monarchy, rejecting a new proposal to replace an unpopular king with a four-year-old prince.
Nepal's prime minister, a political moderate seen as sympathetic to the idea of keeping the throne, said King Gyanendra and his equally unpopular son, Crown Prince Paras, should step aside and make way for young Prince Hridayendra, the next in line.
The new infant king would therefore have a strictly ceremonial role. It's possible this would also reconcile ordinary Nepalis with an institution that has been badly damaged by Gyanendra's failed attempts to cling to absolute power.
The Maoists, however, angrily rejected Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's proposal.
"Our party will not accept any form of monarchy, whether that is a child king or his grandfather," said Ananta, the deputy commander of the Maoist's People's Liberation Army.
"Our party totally rejects the prime minister's remarks, and this goes against the spirit of the eight-party alliance," said Ananta, who like many of the ultra-leftists only uses one name.
Other partners in the coalition government were also wary about the proposal.
"Koirala's attempt to save the monarchy is unacceptable for our party," said Jhala Nath Khanal, a senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal.
"Our party has always been in favor of abolition of the monarchy and will not review our decision in the future," said Khanal whose party, like the Maoists, has 83 seats in the 330-seat interim parliament.
Palace officials refused to comment on the prime minister's remarks.
"Nepal is going through very convoluted political times and before the constituent assembly elections I am sure we are going to hear a lot of different views from the political parties," a palace secretariat official said.
A recent opinion poll showed that republican sentiment across the country was rising, with 60 percent of people saying they wanted to abolish the monarchy.
Yubaraj Ghimire, the editor of the Nepali-language weekly magazine Samaya, said it's possible that Koirala's proposal could create additional tension in the alliance government that was formed in April.
"Its not a responsible statement by the prime minister and it could make an uneasy situation among the parties," Ghimire said.
The Maoists signed a landmark peace deal last year and have since entered parliament and the government.
Last week, the interim parliament passed an amendment to the country's interim Constitution.
The amendment gives members of parliament the power to abolish the monarchy through a majority vote in parliament in the case that the king interferes in politics.
The future of the 238-year-old Shah dynasty is set to be decided after elections, which are scheduled for November, appoint a body that will be responsible for rewriting the Constitution.
In the meantime, the king has been temporarily stripped of his title as head of state and is no longer in command of the armed forces.
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