Nepali Times
The next move


Just about everyone agrees that King Gyanendra is contemplating a new move but no has a clue what it will be.

Trial balloons from the royal regime could indicate he is considering the option of scrapping the constitution altogether, after all there isn't much left to destroy. Hardline army brass make no secret of their preference for a ban on parties and still seem to have the king's ear.

More moderate advisers, however, argue that the royal takeover instead of helping crush the Maoists has actually put the monarchy in serious jeopardy and have told the king he should quickly backtrack.

The question is whose advice will the king take? He has been on the road constantly for the past two months and has met a slew of businessmen and advisers. He has admitted to them his regime has failed to deliver. Exactly three years after 4 October, 2002 and seven months after 1 February 2005 things are not going according to plan and King Gyanendra knows it.

"The capable are not loyal and the loyal are not capable," he was quoted as saying during a recent get-together. But the king retains a deep distrust towards the political parties, appears to believe that the Maoist-party link is a plot hatched by the India-US-UK and still seems to believe he can go at it alone.

The king's immediate agenda is to reduce domestic and international pressure on his regime. A reshuffle after Dasain to induct less-tainted faces from centrist parties could be in the cards, but few will want to be seen as being coopted. He could follow this up with an announcement of local and general elections after municipal polls to show the parties as recalcitrant.

The king didn't meet the EU Troika, which warned on Thursday of "a strong risk of political collapse". The Troika statement added: "The changes of 1 Feburary have been self-defeating." It said the Maoist ceasefire offered an opportunity for the government and that there may be a role for third-party involvement. In meetings with the Europeans, party stalwarts rejected elections outright but there will be pressure on them to contest given their thaw in ties with the Maoists.

Elsewhere, efforts are underway to forge unity among constitutional forces. The US-based Carter Centre is organising a two-week retreat in Boston between selected representatives of the seven-party alliance and monarchists next week. If the parties and the palace can iron out their differences and give the king a face-saving way to climb down, the hope is that they could begin negotiations with the Maoists at an international venue. Unless someone sabotages it first.

The Maoists' unilateral ceasefire ends on 3 December, and despite sabre rattling by radical royals there is hope the next eight weeks can be used to build a lasting peace process. Although under strong pressure from its republican rank-and-file the NC and UML could still allow the king a soft landing to a constitutional monarchy while there is still time.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)