The 1990 constitution, Nepal's third (with variations) since 1951, established a constitutional monarchy in which the legislature consists of the king and two houses of parliament, the lower house, called the House of Representatives and the upper house, the National Council. The House of Representatives has 205 members elected to terms of five years; at least 5% of the contestants from every party must be women. The National Council has 60 members, 35 of whom are elected by the House of Representatives. The National Council members included three elected women as of 2003. Suffrage is universal at 18 years of age.
The National Council is a permanent body, retiring one-third of its members every two years in elections that take place in May of even-numbered years. The king appoints 10 of the 60 members in the National Council. The remaining 15 members are selected by an electoral college.
In May 2002, parliament was dissolved, and elections were scheduled for 13 November of that year. However, King Gyanendra removed his prime minister who had called for a postponement of national elections for a year due to mounting Maoist violence. King Gyanendra subsequently indefinitely postponed the elections, which, as of December 2002, had not been held.
Nepal's supreme court chief justice is appointed by the king on recommendation of the Constitutional Council.
For development purposes, the country is also divided into five regions by geography (Eastern, Central, Western, Mid-Western, and Far-Western), each of which serves also as a parliamentary constituency, electing three members of the lower house. In 1992, the government undertook a reform of the civil service, lowering the age of retirement from 60 to 58, committing itself to reducing its overall size by 25% by 1993, and engaging in wholesale dismissals of those with 20 or more years of service.
The king is Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, the descendent of an unbroken Rajput line going back more than 200 years. Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand was named prime minister on 11 October 2002, after King Gyanendra removed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on 4 October 2002.