05/28/2012, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepal, the Constituent Assembly fails, Maoists accused of coup

by Kalpit Parajuli
The deadline for new constitution expired at midnight last night. The Maoist government announces elections for a new assembly on November 22, but without consulting coalition parties. Catholics pray for peace and harmony in the country.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Nepal will not have a Constitution. The Constituent Assembly failed to deliver the document by May 27, the date fixed six months ago according to the UN. At the root of the failure are tensions between political parties on the use of federalism as a state model and criteria for granting autonomous regions for ethnic minorities. Experts say the country may be plunged into a dangerous constitutional crisis with unpredictable consequences. Army and police were alerted to prevent violent demonstrations. Yesterday, Catholics held a prayer vigil for the constitution, the harmony and peace in the country at St. Xavier High School in Lalitpur (Kathmandu).

Immediately after the deadline for submission of the constitution, the Prime Minister Baburan Bhattarai announced the date for new elections for the Constituent Assembly, to be held on November 22. The decision was announced without consulting the other parties of the coalition government. They accuse the Maoists of a "coup" with the silent approval of the institutions.

Ram Chandra Poudel, leader of the Congress Party, the country's main conservative party, stressed that the "proposal of the Maoists is against the interim constitution" and other solutions are necessary to enable the country to emerge from the crisis in the short term. Opinions echoed by the Leninist Communists and other coalition parties, who expect an official declaration of President Ram Baran Yadav. According to presidency sources, the Head of State is consulting legal experts before ruling in favour of the Maoists proposal.

The current constitutional assembly dominated by the Maoist party was elected in 2008, two years after the end of the civil war between the Maoists and Hindu monarchy. Its term would have expired in 2010 but was postponed four times because of internal disagreements in parliament, first because of the disarmament of Maoist guerrillas and now due to the question of the State delineation. Various groups have been protesting and lobbying for or against federalism: the political parties are divided on the model and the number of federal states.

In Nepal, there are 103 castes and 60 ethnic groups. For several months the tribal minorities have blocked the country with strikes and demonstrations to put pressure on the Constituent Assembly to protect their rights and promote the federal system. These protests have created tensions between majority Hindus and ethnic and religious minorities, with hundreds of casualties and arrests, particularly in the Far Western Region and the Terai (southern Nepal), home to the majority of the ethnic and tribal groups, who are also among the country's poorest.

The Congress Party, the main opposition party, accuses the Maoists of fomenting protests for fear of losing power, obtained by winning the elections for the Constituent Assembly in 2008. The secret support of the Maoists cadres in each ethnic group are pushing minorities to demand a federal state according along ethnic lines. The confusion in the federal system is such that in some groups, the tribes have come into conflict with each other, demanding the partition of autonomous regions, such as the Far Western Region, already established on the basis of ethnicity.

 

 

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