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Nepalese King Ousts Prime Minister - 2002-10-05

Nepal's King has fired the country's prime minister, disbanded his cabinet and assumed direct control of Nepal's government. Legislative elections, originally scheduled for November, have now been postponed indefinitely.

Nepal's King Gyanendra's surprise announcement over state radio marks the first time since Nepal became a constitutional monarchy in 1990 that the ruling monarch has ousted an elected government.

In his statement, sacking Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and his council of ministers, King Gyanendra said the prime minister's request to postpone next month's scheduled legislative elections for one year for security reasons had created in his words "an uneasy situation and a constitutional problem. The king said he was acting under a constitutional provision that allows him to overrule government decisions during a constitutional crisis.

Kapil Shresthra, a professor of political science at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan University, said like many Nepalis, King Gyandendra had probably become frustrated and annoyed with Prime Minister Deuba's government.

But, Mr. Shrestha said, King Gyanendra has overstepped his constitutional prerogatives. "The defenders of the action taken by the king should understand the strength of the constitution is constitutional monarchy, and the king should, on all occasions, act on the advice of the prime minister only," he said. He cannot act on anything on his own, he does not have much discretionary power."

King Gyanendra said he will soon appoint an interim government made up of different political parties, whose job, he said, will be to maintain order and set a new date for elections.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said he will fight his ouster, calling it unconstitutional

Kapil Shrestha of Tribhuvan University, said King Gyandendra's action could lead to more instability for Nepal. "There is no doubt that during the last 12 years, and during the last five to six years in particular, democracy has not been functioning properly. Our political leaders have not been giving their due share to democracy. They had become very unpopular and the government had failed to deliver the goods," he said. "But, in spite of that, this does not give an excuse to reverse the process, so I am afraid we have entered a very unpredictable and volatile phase.

Kapil Shrestha says most Nepalis have greeted King Gyanendra's announcement dismissing Mr. Deuba's government with indifference. He says people in Nepal are increasingly losing faith in democracy, as they see a government paralyzed by infighting, stepped up Maoist attacks and a tourism-dependent economy that has been crippled by Maoist violence and a global economic slowdown.