Lawmakers Seek to Diminish Nepal King's Powers

Lawmakers moved Thursday to dramatically reduce the powers of Nepal's king, calling for him to be stripped of his legal immunity, authority over the army and exemption from paying taxes.

The sweeping resolution also called for King Gyanendra to lose his symbolic position as the head of the Himalayan nation, changing traditional references to "His Majesty's government" to simply the "Nepal government."

CountryWatch: Nepal

"This proclamation represents the feelings of all the people," Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said in Parliament while presenting the resolution, which passed unanimously.

Political leaders celebrated its passage.

"This ends the remains of the royal regime and establishes the king as only a figurehead," said Narayanman Bijuchche of the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party.

To be enacted, the resolution must be voted on as a series of laws, officials said. That was expected in the next few days.

The measure's passage "has begun the process," Deputy Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli said. "The government will work with Parliament to execute the resolution and laws will be drafted to implement the resolution."

The vote was the most significant move since the government assumed power last month after weeks of deadly street protests forced Gyanendra to give up direct control of the government, reinstate Parliament, and return political authority to elected officials.

Gyanendra fired the prime minister in February 2005, citing a need to clamp down on corruption and stamp out a communist insurgency that has killed 13,000 people in the past decade.

Even politicians who traditionally supported the king voted against him Thursday.

"This move has turned the country toward a new goal and target. This will give political stability," said Surya Bahadur Thapa of the royalist Rastriya Janshakti Party.

Earlier this week, a delay in voting on the proclamation sparked angry protests in the streets of the capital, Katmandu. Government vehicles were set ablaze and traffic was blocked.

The resolution calls for the king to be stripped of his command over the 90,000-member Royal Nepalese army, which would be renamed the Nepal Army.

The king also would lose his immunity from prosecution and taxes and his right to make final decisions on major issues, and Parliament would have the power to set the income of the royal family.

In addition, the resolution calls for Nepal — officially a Hindu nation — to become a secular state. About 85 percent of Nepal's 27 million people are Hindu.

Earlier, the government banned rallies around key areas in the capital ahead of the vote.

A notice on state-run radio said rallies and protests would not be allowed around the royal palace and the Singha Durbar, the walled complex that contains the parliament building, prime minister's office, ministries and other key government offices.