- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2008

KATMANDU - Nepal’s constitutional assembly convened yesterday and abolished the nation’s 240-year-old Hindu monarchy, making the Himalayan nation a republic.

A senior member of the 601-member assembly, Kul Bahadur Gurung, said 560 members voted to oust the king and four voted against. The remaining lawmakers were absent.

The assembly declared the unpopular King Gyanendra an ordinary citizen, and it ordered the government to take ownership of the royal palace within 15 days.

“This is the day when my dream has been fulfilled,” Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said.

Yesterday’s action capped a tortuous path in which Maoists waged a decade-long insurgency before laying down their weapons and joining the political process in 2006.

In April elections, they won more than one-third of the seats, the largest bloc in the assembly, which is charged with writing a new constitution.

The streets of Nepal were festive yesterday, with people lighting firecrackers and waving red flags to celebrate.

The Maoists say they are committed to democracy and capitalism, but many Nepalese are worried.

Violence blamed on communist youth organizations marred campaigning prior to April’s elections, and some 20,000 hardened guerrilla fighters remain in camps monitored by U.N. peacekeepers.

As the assembly prepared to meet, two bombs exploded near the convention center.

The explosions were the latest in a series of small bombings throughout the week, some claimed by pro-monarchy groups. No one was seriously injured.

Gyanendra came to power in 2001, when a drunken prince gunned down most of the royal family before killing himself.

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