Hundreds of supporters of King Gyanendra waved flags and chanted slogans in Nepal's capital yesterday to protest plans to abolish the Himalayan nation's centuries-old monarchy.
It was the first such public demonstration in support of the largely unpopular king since 2006 when he was forced to give up his authoritarian rule and restore democracy, and was stripped of his powers.
"Save the nation! We love our king!" chanted about 1,500 protesters who marched through central Katmandu, blocking traffic for hours. They gathered outside the prime minister's office and waved the green, yellow and white flag of the monarchist National Democratic Party (Nepal), which organized the rally.
They were protesting the decision last month by Nepal's seven main political parties -- including communist former guerrillas -- to turn the kingdom into a republic after elections expected no later than mid-April.
"We were quiet and patient for a long time, but we have been compelled to come out in the open to save our nation. How can these so-called main political parties decide for the entire nation to remove a 240-year-old monarchy from the country?" said Kamal Thapa of the National Democratic Party (Nepal).
Hundreds of riot police kept a close watch on the protesters but there was no violence.
Gyanendra, previously a constitutional monarch with mostly ceremonial powers, seized control of the country in February 2005, claiming the government had failed to quell a decade-long communist insurgency. The move was met by widespread protests against his authoritarian rule, and he was forced to step down and relinquish most of his powers in April 2006.
Last month, the political parties agreed to make Nepal a republic as soon as a Constituent Assembly -- charged with rewriting the constitution and shaping Nepal's political future -- was elected. Polls were to take place no later than Nepalese New Year in the second week of April.