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Vote in Nepal Rejects Monarchy


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.


And I'm Michelle Norris.

In Nepal, the monarchy is over after 240 years. Lawmakers there voted to turn the small Hindu Himalayan nation into a republic. That decision was made by Nepal's new constituent assembly, which is dominated by former communist rebels. They told the King he must leave his palace within 15 days.

As NPR's Philip Reeves reports from the capital, Kathmandu, for many it was a day of celebration.

(Soundbite of children playing)

PHILIP REEVES: They're partying in Kathmandu. Men and women brandishing huge red communist flags bearing the hammer and sickle pour through the streets. Many are young Maoists wearing headbands and red face paint as they celebrate the demise of a hated king. Until a few months ago, King Gyanendra's portrait, adorned by a crown of peacock feathers, was everywhere - on the walls, on bank notes, in shops. Some Nepalese saw him as a Hindu deity. The crowd knew this was coming. They began celebrating hours before the official announcement. Finally, long after dark, the decision was confirmed.

(Soundbite of cheering)

REEVES: Nepal's new constituent assembly decided by 560 votes to four to get rid of the monarchy. Among the crowd outside was Amderah Narri(ph), a 20-year-old economics student.

Ms. AMDERAH NARRI (Economics Student): That's really important to root out that King, a monarchy, that the - because we're not able to get whatever the opportunity that we took that we're not able to get.

REEVES: Not far away stands Diventurei Pandi(ph), a civil society activist. He believes this a moment of real hope for Nepal.

Mr. DIVENTUREI PANDI (Civil Society Activist): We begin our journey towards building a new Nepal, a Nepal that united the diversity that is there (unintelligible) ethnicity, language, reason and economic and social aspirations of the people.

REEVES: Pandi thinks Gyanendra contributed much to his own faith.

Mr. PANDI: Stupidity, arrogance, I call it obscurantist, narcisistic (unintelligible) the king (unintelligible) people should be thankful.

REEVES: There's been no reaction so far from the king or his staff. Few expect him to resist, at least for now. The fall of Nepal's monarchy, the Shah Dynasty that created Nepal nearly 240 years ago, happened today, but the decline began several years ago. It began in 2001, when most of the Royal family, including the reigning monarch, the current king's brother, was shot dead. The crowned prince did it during a drunken rampage and then killed himself. For many Nepalese the massacre shattered their faith in their monarchs. Many suspected without a proof that Gyanendra was somehow behind it.

Mr. KANMANI DIXEN(ph) (Editor and Commentator): It is the monarchy of Nepal that makes Nepal one of the oldest nation states in the world. So it is a momentous occasion when it is bid goodbye.

REEVES: That's Nepali editor and commentator Kanmani Dixen(ph).

Mr. DIXEN: And the main reason is that the currently seating King of Nepal, Gyanendra, thought it was within his right to try to become an absolute monarch.

REEVES: Dixen's referring to an episode that did much to seal Gyanendra's fate. In early 2005, Gyanendra decided to dissolve parliament to assume absolute power, saying this was the only way to defeat Maoist insurgents who by then controlled much of the countryside.

(Soundbite of cheering)

REEVES: Fourteen months later, there was a popular uprising against him. Gyanendra tried to crush it with force but the Maoists and the political parties and the public joined forces in one. Gyanendra was compelled to restore democracy. The Maoists signed a peace deal and last month overwhelmingly won elections to the constituent assembly, the same body that today got rid of the monarchy and that must now write a new constitution.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, Kathmandu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Philip Reeves
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.