So it looks like the Nepali people have done it: after weeks of ongoing protests and at least 14 needless deaths, King Gyanendra is reinstating parliament.
But, as one student said, “The people have done their part. Now it is the leaders who need to do theirs.” There is much to be done. First of all, reinstatement of parliament is not the same thing as democracy, nor has it been decided what will become of King Gyanendra or the institution of the monarchy. For another, the Maoist rebels have rejected the king’s move, promising to continue their blockade of Kathmandu, although reports say the city is returning to normal, with taxis running, shops open and cell phone service restored.
The Maoists want a complete end to the monarchy, and when they made a deal last November with seven opposition parties, they all agreed on holding elections and ending the monarchy as their ultimate goals. The split now is over tactics as much as anything: the Maoists wanted the protests to go on until the king abdicated, while the opposition parties were willing to form a constituent assembly while the king retained nominal power.
The constituent assembly will rewrite the constitution, and it remains an open question whether the king will retain a ceremonial role or have no official status. The Maoists obviously want the latter, and the people generally want to do what is needed to get the Maoists to lay down their arms, but there is also a great deal of affection for the institution of the monarchy, if not for this particular monarch. But for the first time in quite a while, there is genuine hope that Nepal can achieve sustainable peace and democracy.
Also published on Medium.