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Nepalese Parliament Votes to Abolish Monarchy

The Nepalese Parliament has voted to abolish the tiny Himalayan nation's centuries-old monarchy, turning the country into a republic. From New Delhi, Anjana Pasricha reports that the decision is expected to pave the way for holding elections and restoring democracy next year.

The decision to abolish the monarchy and declare Nepal a "federal, democratic, republican state" was made by an overwhelming majority in the interim parliament.

270 members in the 329-member house voted late on Friday in favor of ending the monarchy. Only three votes were cast against the motion. The rest abstained.

The vote in the Himalayan country came as no surprise. Days ago, the government had reached an agreement with former Maoist rebels to abolish the monarchy.

That agreement came three months after Maoist rebels had walked out of the government, demanding immediate abolition of the centuries old institution. The Maoists have waged a decade long civil war against the monarchy.

Friday's vote confirms the earlier agreement and represents a compromise between the rebels and political parties. It will be implemented after elections are held - probably in mid-April.

Professor Lok Raj Baral at Nepal's Center for Contemporary Studies says a decision on the elections could come soon.

"All the parties have now agreed and they are happy. In a couple of days or so the government is going to announce the date of the elections," Baral said.

The king has traditionally been considered a reincarnation of a Hindu God, Vishnu. King Gyanendra heads a dynasty that dates back to the 18th century. He became King when much of his family was killed in a palace massacre in 2001.

But King Gyanendra fell from favor when he dismissed the government and grabbed absolute power in 2005. He only handed back power to political parties following weeks of bloody protests in April 2006.

The king's power-grab helped pave the way for Maoist rebels and political parties to join forces to end his rule, and enter a peace deal.

The elections are expected to end restore democracy and end a tumultuous period in the country's history.