Nepal's King is stripped of political powers

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Nepal's parliament has voted to strip King Gyanendra of his constitutional powers and reduce him to a ceremonial figure.

The vote represents a decisive victory for pro-democracy protesters who took to the streets in huge numbers last month after a year in which the King had ruled with absolute power.

Parliament removed the King as commander-in chief of the Royal Nepalese Army, which will be renamed the Nepal Army. Soldiers will cease to swear an oath of loyalty to the King, and the chief of staff will be appointed by parliament. Removing his command of the army was widely seen as the crucial step to prevent King Gyanendra trying to seize absolute power again.

The Raj Parishad, Nepal's privy council, which had retained real power under the King, was abolished. The King will also have to pay taxes.

In a sign the interim government intends to modernise the country, yesterday's proclamation also announced that Nepal, until yesterday officially Hindu, is now a secular state.

There is considerable hope among Nepalis that the King's removal could pave the way for a peace deal with the Maoist rebels.