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Nepal's Deposed King Gyanendra Expresses Concern About Country

A year after he stepped down, Nepal's deposed King Gyanendra has expressed concern about his country. The end of the monarchy had raised hopes of bringing political stability to the tiny nation, wracked for a decade by a Maoist rebellion.

In a message on the occasion of his 63rd birthday, Tuesday, former King Gyanendra says he stepped down in the hope that peace and the law and order situation would improve in the country. But, he says he is "troubled and anguished" that there is no improvement in the lot of his fellow citizens.

The king handed power to political parties in 2006, following weeks of street protests. This paved the way for Maoist rebels to end a violent insurgency, sign a peace deal and come to power.

However, in recent weeks the country has again been mired in political chaos. A government led by the former rebels resigned in May, following a squabble because of the sacking of the army chief. Since then, the Maoists have launched almost daily street protests.

Kunda Dixit, editor of the weekly Nepali Times, says the political chaos witnessed in recent weeks has raised fears that the fragile peace process is in danger.

"The underlying fear is that this lack of unity and the bickering among political parties in Kathmandu is ultimately going to lead to the collapse of the peace process," said Dixit. "I dont think that is founded, but that is the perception in the public."

But political analysts say that, despite widespread discontentment with political parties, there is virtually no nostalgia for the rule of King Gyanendra. Dixit says the decision by political parties to abolish the monarchy has widespread support.

"When the King hinted that things might have been much better if the monarchy had been allowed to continue, I don't think people will draw that correlation," said Dixit. "I think things are bad, but essentially people realize that the monarchy is the price they had to pay for peace."

Political analysts predict the Maoists will not disrupt the peace process, despite the shutdowns and strikes they have led in recent weeks.

Lok Raj Baral, who heads Kathmandu's Center for Contemporary Studies, points out the former rebels ended protests that had paralyzed parliament for weeks and expressed their commitment to democracy.

"Maoists committed that they will not go away from mainstream politics. They are not going to leave the field," said Baral. "They will be here within the system and continue their struggle from within. They are committed to pursue the course of constitution making."

Nepal's parliament is in the process of writing a new constitution for the tiny, Himalayan country.