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Nepal's Parliament Strips King of Last Powers


Nepal's parliament has stripped the king of his power over the legislature - effectively leaving the monarchy with little more than a ceremonial role. The move comes weeks after King Gyanendra was forced to give up absolute power in the face of massive anti-government protests.

Lawmakers passed the motion late Saturday to strip Nepal's king of his right to veto laws - one of the last remaining powers vested in the monarchy.

Parliament can now also formally criticize members of the royal family, and choose the successor to King Gyanendra, who has sat on the throne since 1998.

Last month, parliament removed the king as head of the 90,000 member Armed Forces, removed his legal immunity and his freedom from paying taxes.

These steps by lawmakers effectively make Nepal's king a figurehead - just two months after he was forced to give up absolute power and restore parliament in the face of weeks of violent anti-government rallies.

The king took over the government in February 2005 on the grounds Nepal's political parties were fractured and inept at dealing with 10-year Maoist insurgency.

Backed by the Armed Forces, King Gyanendra imprisoned opposition politicians and activists, and severely restricted press and civil liberties.

Despite being effectively stripped of his power, some say King Gyanendra and the monarchy are not finished in politics.

"I believe there is already underway a rearguard action by the palace, by the people who depend on the palace, the powerful feudal elites in the country who retain all sorts of leverage behind the scenes," said Rhoderick, an analyst with the conflict resolution organization, the International Crisis Group. "And I think it would be very naïve if we imagine that the king's surrender ... means the end of the game for them."

Parliament is expected to organize an election for a new Constituent Assembly. Legislators have promised that through that new body, Nepalese voters will ultimately determine the fate of the country's monarchy and the role it should play, or whether it should be scrapped altogether.

No date for that election has been set.

King Gyanendra is the latest monarch in the Shah dynasty, which has controlled the Nepalese throne since 1768. His predecessor, King Birendra instituted a series of democratic reforms in 1990, but he retained control over the Armed Forces, and the power to dissolve parliament.

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