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Nepal polls possible in a year: Analysts

Analysts say that inter-party rows and problematic peace talks may hamper Nepal government's plan to redraft the Constitution.

india Updated: May 12, 2006 11:24 IST

Nepal's new government plans to hold polls for a body to redraft the Constitution within a year but inter-party rows and problematic peace talks may interfere, analysts and politicians said on Friday.

The new government has matched a rebel ceasefire and met a key Maoist demand to hold elections to form a constituent assembly to redraft Nepal's constitution that will decide the monarchy's future.

"The constituent assembly election will be within a year. First, we will go into dialogue and after settlement with the Maoists they could be included in a new government," works minister Gopal Man Shrestha said on Thursday.

But "without the Maoists disarming, we won't go to a constituent assembly," he added.

The Maoists, who have waged a decade-long insurgency to topple the king and install a Communist rule, have said they are willing to join a new national army but have not committed yet to disarming.

Fourteen months of direct royal rule ended in late April after weeks of mass pro-democracy protests backed by the Maoists forced King Gyanendra to reinstate Parliament.

The rebels and government are expected to enter peace talks soon, but the multi-party government has yet to name a peace talks team and around 15 cabinet positions remain unfilled.

The timeframe for the constituent assembly depends on the outcome of the slated peace talks, another minister told the agency on Friday.

"We should not speculate about this as it depends on the speed of the peace negotiations with the Maoists," said Finance Minister Ram Sharam Mahat.

"But if everything goes as fast as we expect, it could be possible within a year," he said, while warning "there's a lot of homework to be done."

Political analyst Lok Raj Baral said squabbling among the three major parties, which hold six cabinet posts between them, could throw a spanner in the works.

"I am doubtful about the present government's behaviour as the parties are engaged in wrangling about the formation of the government and choosing a (parliamentary) speaker," Baral said.

"If this wrangling continues and they regularly fail to reach agreement, it (the constituent assembly elections) will take more than one year," said Baral.

However, even if the constituent assembly formation drags on, the Maoists are unlikely to return to violence, Baral said.

"I don't think the Maoists should walk out of the peace talks as they have already accepted the 12-point memorandum of understanding in which they said they would accept any outcome of the constituent assembly elections," the professor said.

Once foes, the political parties and Maoists entered a loose alliance late last year and agreed on the memorandum that remains the framework of negotiations.

Two previous attempts in 2001 and 2003 at a negotiated peace with the rebels failed and the country was plunged back into conflict.

At least 12,500 people have been killed since the rebels began their "people's war" in 1996.

First Published: May 12, 2006 11:24 IST