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Constitutional amendment bill fails in Nepal

The amendment was aimed at accommodating the voice of Madhes-based parties and widening the acceptability of the Constitution by making it more inclusive. It fell short of the magic number by 48 votes.

world Updated: Aug 21, 2017 22:18 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
Nepal,constitutional amendment bill,Speaker Onsari Gharti
File photo of Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in Kathmandu.(Reuters)

A much-touted constitutional amendment bill was rejected by Nepal’s Parliament during voting on Monday, leaving Madhes-based parties dismayed.

The bill required 395 votes to be approved with a two-thirds majority in the 592-member House but it fell 48 votes short of the magic number. The bill to amend the country’s new statute to make it more Madhes-friendly had been registered in Parliament on April 5.

Speaker Onsari Gharti announced the rejection of the bill after the voting. According to the Parliament secretariat, 347 lawmakers voted in favour of the bill and 206 against it. Of the total of 592 lawmakers, 553 were present during the voting.

The main opposition CPN-UML voted against the bill. The fourth largest party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal, too was divided over the bill and many of its members did not back it.

The Madhes-based parties have opposed the Constitution since it was promulgated in September 2015.

The amendment was aimed at accommodating the voice of Madhes-based parties and widening the acceptability of the Constitution by making it more inclusive. It was also meant to address several demands of the people living in the Madhes region bordering India, including their representation in various state entities.

With the rejection, it is unclear if the demands of Madhes-based parties to delineate electoral constituencies on the basis of population and geography, to ensure their representations in provincial and federal assemblies, will be addressed.

Madhesi parties, after being assured by the Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Center that the bill would be approved, had backed Sher Bahadur Deuba’s bid to become prime minister.

After several failed attempts to address the demands of Madhesis through negotiations, the government and the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN), a grouping of Madhesi parties, decided to put the bill to a vote. The Madhes-based parties have already said the result of the voting in the House will be acceptable to them.

The rejection of the bill triggered a new debate on whether Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba should resign. Some said he should step down as he had failed to persuade the people about the need to amend the Constitution.

“The PM should resign,” said former premier and senior CPN-UML leader Jhalanath Khanal. “The PM has lost the moral and political ground to run the county.”

Senior RJPN leader Laxman Lal Karna said the bill had failed because of the lack of cooperation from the CPN-UML and it should be held responsible.

First Published: Aug 21, 2017 22:18 IST