King Gyanendra came to power in tragic circumstances in June 2001. His brother, King Binendra, was murdered along with eight other members of the royal family by the Crown Prince, who committed suicide. King Gyanendra inherited a constitutional monarchy established in 1991, but also an armed rebellion by Maoist militants. Almost the entire country, except the valley of Kathmandu, is under the control of the rebels. Some 13,000 people have died in 10 years of conflict.
In February last year King Gyanendra accused politicians of not doing enough to fight the militants. He assumed direct rule, dissolving parliament and suspending the activities of political parties. He insisted he had no choice but to act against the Maoist insurgency and promised peace and a return to democratic rule after three years. Critics though claim there is no sign of progress.
Demonstrations have been on the increase over the past 14 months and the monarchy’s image has taken a battering. Rebel leaders have also changed tactics, declaring a truce and support for the political parties pushing for democracy. On Friday Gyanendra promised parliamentary elections next year. However, he offered no timetable and no guarantee of impartiality. An alliance of seven political parties rejected the offer.
The leader of one of them, former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirola, said:“The King is not listening, that’s why I have told him that time is running out very fast. If the king doesn’t listen to it, then I can only say, God save the king.”. As people celebrate the Nepalese new year, observers say there are growing questions about the country’s future stability and the role of the monarchy.