Uncategorized Another deadline looms in Nepal constitution deadlock

Another deadline looms in Nepal constitution deadlock


Prime Minister Sushil Koirala
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala

(AA) – A critical attempt to break Nepal’s constitutional deadlock is to move forward on Saturday as leaders of the ruling coalition and Maoist-led opposition alliance sit for talks in a last-ditch effort to forge consensus.

The Constituent Assembly, the body tasked with drafting a constitution for the country in the wake of a civil war that ended in 2006, has been dormant since the speaker, Subhas Nembang, halted its operations indefinitely on February 12 in a bid to allow parties to reach consensus on key issues of dispute.

The most contentious issue is the demarcation and naming of states in a new federal set up.

The ruling coalition is in favor of a federal system that is premised on economic viability, while the opposition alliance is in favor of an identity-based federalism that it sees as crucial to overcoming Nepal’s historically exclusivist state.

Nembang has given parties until Sunday to resolve their disagreements, failing which the Assembly will once again be convened, with voting on disputed issues likely.

Ahead of talks, leaders of the ruling coalition have expressed their commitment to reaching an agreement though they say that the country cannot go on indefinitely without a constitution, claiming that voting may be necessary.

“It is everyone’s wish that the constitution should be framed through consensus, and we have adopted maximum flexibility for it. But then again, there is also no alternative to going to the Constituent Assembly process if there is no consensus,” Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is reported as saying on Thursday.     

In January, parties within the opposition alliance smashed microphones and brawled with security officials in the Assembly after it emerged that the ruling coalition was moving forward with voting on disputed issues. 

The coalition’s handsome numbers in the Assembly mean that it will have significant leverage in pursuing its vision for the new republic.

Still, even if contentious issues are put to a vote, the outcome is far from certain.

“The opposition is hoping that Constituent Assembly members from Madhesi, Janajati, women’s and other groups will vote against what the government is proposing,” Sudip Pokharel, political analyst and director of Democracy Resource Center told The Anadolu Agency. 

He added: “The ruling parties won’t necessarily get their way, it’s 50/50.”

As the assembly speaker’s deadline for reaching consensus looms and the possibility of voting becomes increasingly likely, opposition parties have threatened to boycott the Constituent Assembly, the formation of which was a key demand of Maoist rebels in coming above ground and into open politics in 2006.

“It is ironic that they are protesting the Constituent Assembly that they fought for but they want to make a deal on federalism. The Maoists have lost most of their agenda on governance models and other issues, so if they give up on identity-based federalism they will lose political relevance,” said Pokharel.

Leaders of the ruling coalition have meanwhile urged the opposition alliance to call off upcoming protests, which involve the shutdown of government offices throughout Nepal from April 3 to April 7 and a general strike in Kathmandu on April 6 and 7.

Despite the opposition failing to call off protests, senior Maoist ideologue Baburram Bhattarai has intensified meetings with leaders of the ruling coalition in recent days and is reportedly upbeat about the prospect of a breakthrough. 

Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal arrives back in Kathmandu today, ahead of Saturday’s talks, after a weeklong visit to China at the invitation of Chinese communist party officials. 

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