Nepalese Government, Rebels Agree on Temporary Constitution

Nepal's ruling parties and communist rebels have agreed on an interim constitution that paves the way for the rebels to join the government. As Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, under the new constitution, the king's powers as head of state will be transferred to the prime minister.

Top leaders of the ruling alliance in Nepal and Maoist rebel chief Prachanda signed the final draft of the interim constitution early Saturday after intense all-night negotiations.

The document is not effective immediately. It will only come into force once thousands of rebel fighters have been confined to U.N.-monitored camps.

The finalization of the temporary constitution is a key step in implementing a landmark peace deal reached last month.

Political commentator Yuvraj Ghimire, with Kathmandu's Samay magazine, says it sets the stage for the rebels to join a provisional government.

"It is one step forward on the expected line," he said. "After this constitution comes into force, then interim government and interim parliament will be formed. Maoists will have 73 seats in the interim parliament."

The interim constitution grants no powers to Nepal's King Gyanendra. The rebels and the government have decided to transfer the king's authority as head of state to the prime minister during the transitional period.

The king had already been stripped of most of his powers earlier this year after violent street protests forced him to give up absolute rule and restore multi-party democracy.

Yuvaraj Ghimire says the decision to transfer all executive powers to the prime minister does not alter the king's position, but has satisfied the rebels, who were insistent that he should be given no authority while a transitional government is in place.

"The king was not exercising any powers for the last six months," Yuvaraj Ghimire noted. "He was not given any powers so it puts him in the same position as which was continuing for the last six months."

The future of the monarchy will ultimately be decided by an assembly that will be elected next June to write a permanent constitution for the country.

The rebels are upbeat about Saturday's development, a new constitution for Nepal had been a key demand during their decade-long insurgency.