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Nepal: Beyond Royal Rule

Nepal: Beyond Royal Rule

Kathmandu/Brussels, 15 September 2005: The unilateral ceasefire announced by the Maoists could lead to resolution of Nepal's worsening civil war, but only if the international community changes its approach, especially towards the monarchy.

Nepal: Beyond Royal Rule,* the latest policy briefing from the International Crisis Group, traces the political decline from King Gyanendra's initial power grab in October 2002 though the February 2005 royal coup to today, and says the ineffective and divisive monarchy now risks writing itself out of Nepal's future. The international policy of encouraging cooperation between the palace and the political parties is at a dead end. There may still be a place for the monarchy in a new Nepalese political constellation, but the concentration now needs to be on restoration of peace and democracy, not preserving or defining the royal role.

"The royal government has focused all its efforts on dismantling democracy rather than tackling Nepal's most urgent challenges", says Rhoderick Chalmers, Deputy Director of the South Asia Project. "It suffers from a lack of legitimacy, popular discontent, and international isolation -- all problems for which it lacks solutions, and all problems which make it clear that Nepal cannot return to the pre-coup status quo".

In the seven months since the royal coup, there has been a significant increase in violence. However, the king also unintentionally prompted a tentative dialogue between the political parties and the Maoist insurgents, which is making progress towards developing an agenda for negotiations and provides the background to the three-month ceasefire the Maoists announced on 3 September 2005. Popular support for a monarchy that has failed to deliver peace or prosperity is declining, and mainstream dissent is sure to grow.

The international community should embrace the ceasefire and urge its indefinite extension and government reciprocity. The UN should respond to calls from political parties and civil society and seek to broker an unconditional bilateral ceasefire. All sides need to use the opportunity for more substantive talks. India, the U.S., the UK, and others should continue to withhold military aid in order to keep pressure on the royal government.

The King's direct rule has produced government tainted by corruption, steady intensification of the conflict and further loss of state control in the countryside. It has demonstrated that his intention is to replace democracy with the pre-1990 royal absolutism, not to address the insurgency as he initially claimed.

"The King's insistence on suspending democracy was exactly the wrong approach to dealing with the insurgency", says Robert Templer, Director of the Asia Program for Crisis Group. "He might find that in his all-or-nothing gamble to take Nepal back to the absolute monarchy of the 1960s, he has been outflanked by both the Maoists and the political mainstream".

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