The battle for a democratic republic in Nepal took a step forward last week.
The interim government that took office after a general strike forced King Gyanendra to relinquish power has announced sweeping changes to the way the country is to be governed.
The king, who has also lost his immunity from prosecution, will no longer have any formal control over the armed forces. The word “royal” is to be removed from all state agencies, including the Royal Nepalese Army.
The changes put an end to Nepal as a “Hindu” state. It is now a secular state.
The extent to which the government is under pressure from the movement was demonstrated last Tuesday. Demonstrators torched cars after rumours that the government had lost the nerve to bring change.
Victory celebrations followed the government’s announcement. But there are at least two questions that remain unresolved. Firstly, will the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), who control most of the countryside, be allowed into mainstream politics?
Secondly, will the Nepalese army remain armed and on the streets during the elections to a constituent assembly? Failure to resolve these issues could trigger a new wave of struggle.
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