Ameet Dhakal

The mandate of the assembly will be to draft a new constitution for the country

Date not yet set for the vote Koirala to hold talks with Maoists

Kathmandu: The House of Representatives in Nepal on Sunday unanimously passed a resolution calling for elections to a constituent assembly, effectively placing the fate of the country's monarchy in the hands of its people for the first time in its history.

The motion was tabled in absentia by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Friday and seconded by senior leaders of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) that led the successful pro-democracy movement. Apart from SPA lawmakers, two members of Parliament from the Rashtriya

Prajatantra Party and the Nepal Sadbhavna Party who had served as Ministers in the erstwhile government led by King Gyanendra also voted in favour of the resolution.

The mandate of the constituent assembly will be to draft a new constitution for the country. The assembly will also decide whether Nepal should remain a monarchy or become a republic.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Koirala, who had been indisposed on Friday when the restored Parliament first met, took the oath of office at the Narayanhiti Palace. Though he was sworn in by King Gyanendra, the Nepali Congress leader declined to take the oath of the Rajparishad, or royal privy council, as all of Nepal's Prime Ministers have done in the past.

The SPA has already decided to scrap the Rajparishad. The council, an assembly of pro-palace personalities nominated by the king, had earlier urged Gyanendra to usurp power and had been in the forefront in defending the king's autocratic rule.

An elected constituent assembly has been the chief demand of the Maoist rebels, who have been waging an insurgency against the government for the past 10 years.

Sunday's resolution is considered an important step in the process of getting the Maoists "who favour a republic" to give up their armed struggle for change and join the political mainstream.

On their part, the SPA leaders are also not in a mood to bail out the monarchy.

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