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Nepal fails to reach agreement over new constitution

KATHMANDU, Manesh Shrestha, TNN : Nepal is heading towards a political crisis following the failure of its political parties to arrive at a consensus on drafting the new constitution ahead of the Sunday, May 27 deadline.

The negotiations came to a standstill over the number of provinces the country should have and the basis on which the provinces should be divided.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Madhesi parties from southern Nepal wanted the number of provinces, their names and their boundaries to be mentioned in the new constitution while the Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) proposed that a constitution without settling these issues could be promulgated.

“A federal commission and the new parliament could decide these issues later,” said Nepali Congress leader Arjun Narsingh KC. “Provinces based on identity is not acceptable to us in any condition.”

The Maoist view is exactly the opposite. “We want federal units based on ethnic identity,” said Devendra Poudel, political advisor to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. “That is what our struggle was for all these years including the people’s war.”

The Nepal Congress maintains that since Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country, federal units should not be based on single ethnic identity but multi-ethnic identities.

With the Supreme Court of Nepal having ruled that the term of the constituent assembly cannot be extended as in the past, a political vacuum is imminent. The two sides also differ on the alternatives.

“There will be no alternative than to go for another general election for the constituent assembly,” said Bimalendra Nidhi Nepali Congress leader, who has been involved in the talks.

But the Maoists do not want that. “We will somehow through a political agreement have to save the constituent assembly,” said Poudel.

Various groups staged sit-ins outside the constituent assembly Saturday. Security across the country has been tightened as political tensions heighten.

Published Date: Saturday, May 26th, 2012 | 10:42 AM

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