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Nepal's constituent assembly gets 3-month extension

May 29, 2011 15:08 IST
Nepal's constituent assembly on Sunday got a three-month extension after a last-minute deal between key political parties under which Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal will step down. The development came after overnight consultations between main political parties to forge an agreement on the peace process and extending the term of constituent assembly.

Khanal, who assumed the office about four months ago, offered to resign to pave way for formation of a national unity government and to start regrouping the Maoist combatants for the purpose of integration under a five-point deal.

Out of 508 parliament members who took part in the voting, 504 lawmakers voted in the favour of the bill for 9th amendment of the constitution seeking to extend the term of the constituent assembly for three months, after it expired on May 28.

"The bill was endorsed by more than required two third majority vote," announced chairman of the constituent assembly Subhash Nemwang. However, the 71 lawmakers of Democratic Madhesi Front did not participate in the voting process saying that the major parties failed to address their three-point demands.

The agreement was reached in the wee hours after a marathon meeting between ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist leader and former PM Madhav Kumar Nepal, Maoist chief Prachanda and Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala.

According to Environment Minister Sunil Manandhar, although the prime minister has offered to resign, the government will remain till the next three months, as the parties have agreed to complete the peace process within that period.

The five-point deal was reached to extend the term of the constituent assembly by three months, to conclude the peace process that include handing over of Maoists arms and integration of the Maoist combatants within three months and completing the first draft of the constitution within the extended period.

Ruling CPN-UML, Unified CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress have also agreed to address the demands put forth by the Madhesi Front without specifically mentioning the three points raised by them. Their major demands include declaring the entire Madhes as an autonomous region and forming a separate unit in the national army with inclusion of 10,000 Madhesi youths. However, Madhesi Front lawmakers boycotted the voting process and the major parties failed to categorically address their issues.

The top leaders of the three parties have reached an understanding to lead the government turn by turn and after three months period a national consensus government may be formed under the leadership of Maoist chief Prachanda.

The prime minister's press adviser Surya Thapa said Khanal will resign only after a consensus is reached among major political parties to give an alternative to the present coalition by forming a national consensus government. However, there are different interpretations of the clause "resignation by the prime minister to pave way for forming a national consensus government" by the opposition Nepali Congress.

"The prime minister's resignation will come within a few days as the agreement comes into force immediately and who will lead the next government will be decided through consensus among political parties," Nepali Congress central member Bimalendra Nidhi told PTI.

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