Wednesday, 18 September 2019 07:28 GMT

Nepal PM blames Maoists for missed constitution deadline

(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala Friday accused opposition Maoists of turning parliament into a battleground and derailing efforts to secure agreement on a new constitution before a midnight deadline expired.

"The constituent assembly has become a showcase for agitation, vandalism and chaos," said Koirala, at the end of a week which saw lawmakers come to blows in parliament as tensions rose over the delayed charter.

"Some political parties...have taken the route of strikes and protests, seriously obstructing efforts to write the constitution," Koirala said in a televised address to the nation.

Nepal's parties have spent years locked in a stalemate over the charter while political power plays have confounded efforts to reach an agreement, analysts say.

Opposition lawmakers led by former Maoist rebels this week blocked parliamentary proceedings, storming into the well of the main chamber and shouting slogans, in a bid to prevent ruling party politicians from proposing a vote on disputed issues in the charter.

"Announce a constitution based on consensus," lawmakers chanted.

Parliament Speaker Subhash Nembang Friday urged lawmakers to end the disruption and instructed them to hammer out an agreement or be prepared for a vote, before adjourning the assembly until Sunday.

"People want answers from us, they are watching us and they are waiting," Nembang said.

As political rifts have widened, the impoverished Himalayan nation has sunk deeper into paralysis and anger has spilled over on to the streets, with opposition parties staging a nationwide strike last Tuesday.

The constitution was intended to conclude a peace process begun in 2006 when Maoist guerrillas entered politics, ending a decade-long insurgency that left an estimated 16,000 people dead.

But six prime ministers and two elections later, political infighting has crippled efforts to resolve the deadlock, analysts say.

"Individual leaders are cynically holding the constitution hostage to their petty interests... they are basically jockeying for future positions as PM and president while negotiating our future," said Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times weekly.

"Their ambitions have overwhelmed any push for an agreement... and they are unable to compromise because of a 'winner takes all' attitude," Dixit told AFP.

- Need to 'forge consensus' -

A key sticking point concerns internal borders, with the opposition pushing for provinces to be created along lines that could favour historically marginalised communities.

Other parties have attacked this model, calling it too divisive and a threat to national unity.

The ruling parties and their allies have the two-thirds parliamentary majority they need to approve a constitution without Maoist support.

But the former insurgents have warned of further conflict if they fail to take opposition views into account.

Prime Minister Koirala said his party would make every effort "to forge consensus on the basis of team work and understanding".

A missed deadline will prolong instability and deliver yet another blow to an economy which has seen annual GDP growth plummet from 6.1 percent in 2008 to 3.6 percent in 2013, according to World Bank data.

"How will the country progress like this?" said Pradeep Jung Pandey, president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

"If there is no new constitution and all we will have are protests and instability, how can anyone make new investments or expand existing ones?" Pandey told AFP.

Nepal PM blames Maoists for missed constitution deadline


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