Nepal's King Gyanendra this week gave his traditional message to the nation on Democracy Day. In a democracy with a powerless king it should have been a bland affair, but King Gyanendra's ideas on democracy have been highly controversial since he seized power in an army backed coup in 2005. Last year he was stripped of his powers and status following huge street protests. Democratic politicians returned to government and began a peace process with deadly Maoist rebels. The king was supposed to sit quietly in his palace, awaiting the verdict of the people in elections this June on whether to drop the monarchy altogether. So King Gyanendra sparked a constitutional crisis on Monday when he used his statement to announce, 'It is clear that the prevailing situation compelled us to [seize power] in accordance with the people's aspirations.' He went on to insist the monarchy had always been democratic and that the country still needed this institution. The response spoke volumes about the weakness of the 'new Nepal' less than a year since it was born. The Chief Justice called the statement 'illegal' and called for the king to be interrogated. The prime minister met the army chief and the Indian ambassador to discuss the crisis. The Congress Party, the largest in the ruling coalition, said the remarks suggested a 'possible regressive conspiracy', while Dev Raj Pande, a prominent intellectual, said it was the government's weakness that had emboldened the king to test sentiment for a comeback. Street protests rippled around the country and brought gridlock to the capital. The Maoist rebels, who are now represented in parliament and expect to join an interim government soon, said Nepal should be declared a republic without waiting for the elections in June. One of the prime minister's aides said the Maoists were demanding a republic now because the elections could not be held on time. The electoral system and its constituencies have not been agreed upon four months ahead of the poll. Everywhere there are signs of a system under stress. Girija Prasad Koirala, the 84-year-old prime minister, plus over 20 other ministers and officials, are seriously ill with jaundice after drinking dirty water at the premier's official residence. Street corners in the capital are knee deep in garbage. The Maoist rebels this week announced they would start moving out of UN camps because they did not have enough to eat.