Two years after October Fourth, the Royal Address of February First came as naturally as winter follows autumn. Other than the most foolhardy UML politicos nobody was really taken by surprise. In a good part of the speech the king renewed his commitment to multi-party democracy.
For well over a week, the ouster of Sher Bahadur Deuba and his cabinet had been a foregone conclusion-it was a matter of when rather than if or how he and his government would be shown the door. So he suffered the ignominy of being sacked all over again.
With his second dismissal, Deuba has the dubious distinction of being the only head-of-government in the world to have been sacked by a head-of-state twice in such quick succession.
In his address the king repeatedly referred to the realities of the 21st century. Ironically, even as the address was concluding, the phone and cellphone lines went dead, ISPs were shut down, the airport was closed, senior politicos were put under house arrest and security forces posted at all media outlets.
King Gyanendra suggests a three-year period to transform Nepal into a democratic, peaceful and well-administered kingdom pursuing free-market policies of good governance, transparency and structural reforms to achieve the goal of sustainable development. The key word, often used, was "discipline''. The king also assured his subjects the monarchy did not need to seek populism to prove itself.
Meanwhile, in the outside world, a global neocon tsunami is sweeping across countries. In this new scheme of things, property rights are presumed to precede political rights. Several political experiments are being conducted in different parts to ensure that free-market fundamentalists come out on top.
It began in Pakistan in 1999 after a coup was staged from an aeroplane. That test-case has since progressed to a stage where the Chief Executive says he will keep his uniform on. Meanwhile, his banker-premier Shaukat Aziz has been in Davos to push his economic ideology. In more anarchic societies like Afghanistan and Iraq, stage-managed elections are the processes of choice to install hand-picked favourites. The polls in Iraq and Afghanistan were, as The Economist put it 'democracy at gunpoint.' With international monitors mostly staying away for fear of personal safety, it was impossible to assess the fairness of the poll or accuracy of the turnout estimates. But the US-led forces have already got what they wanted: an opportunity to install their favourites in symbolic positions of power.
In slightly more settled societies, the modus operendi of neocons is to install or unseat rulers through a combination of pre-poll and post-poll political engineering. The method has worked exceedingly well in South America. Now it is being implemented with some success in post-Soviet republics of Central Asia
where a string of velvet revolutions are being staged to seat or unseat democratic rulers. So, in that sense it's probably a blessing in disguise that we're not going for elections anytime soon.