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Nepal constitution crisis averted

Nepal's lawmakers averted a constitutional crisis early this morning by voting to amend the interim constitution and extending the constituent assembly's tenure by another three months. Utpal Parashar reports.What's it all about

world Updated: May 29, 2011 12:06 IST
Utpal Parashar

Nepal's lawmakers averted a constitutional crisis early on Sunday morning by voting to amend the interim constitution and extending the Constituent Assembly's tenure by another three months.

With the deadline to draft a new statute and the CA tenure ending on Saturday midnight, the three major parties, ruling Maoists and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and opposition Nepali Congress, inked a 5-point deal after marathon meetings.

As part of it, the CA tenure would be extended by three months, the first complete draft of the constitution prepared and the peace process concluded in the same period.

Resignation of Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal to make way for a consensus based government, democratisation of the Nepal Army and implementation of past deals made with Madhesi parties are also in the deal.

Lawmakers first voted to amend the interim constitution and later to extend the CA tenure. Seventy one lawmakers of Madhesi parties abstained from voting while four others voted against the motion.

While the development brought temporary relief, there is still no clarity on when the PM would resign and the vexed issue of the exact number of Maoist combatants to be integrated into the security forces.

The Nepali Congress wants Khanal to step down immediately but it seems he will continue to hold the post till there is agreement among all major parties on who would replace him.

The developments are similar to last year when the three parties signed a deal to extend the CA tenure by a year with the condition that the then Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal steps down.

Nepal held on to his post for another month, but lack of consensus among parties led to an eight month long voting process to elect the next prime minister.

Khanal was elected to the post in February after he signed a secret deal with Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

But there was no progress on constitution drafting and the peace process due to continued differences among and within the major parties over power and other key issues like disarming the Maoist combatants.

Elected in 2008 after a peace deal two years ago that ended a 10-year-long civil war, Nepal's lawmakers were supposed to draft a new statute and conclude the peace process within two years.