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  • » 09/17/2015, 00.00


    The first democratic constitution in the history of Nepal approved

    Christopher Sharma

    The country becomes a secular democratic federal republic. The Constituent Assembly approves the draft with 507 votes in favour and 25 against. Minority parties boycotted the vote, whilst the Hindu party voted against. The victory comes after weeks of clashes in the streets. For Nepal’s prime minister, this is a “moment of great pride” to celebrate together.

    Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal is at a turning point. “We have endorsed a federal democratic republic. This is no ordinary event; it is an historic event,” said Pushpa Kamal Dahal, leader of the  Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the country’s third largest party, as he greeted the final approval of the country’s new constitution after many years of discussion and delays.

    With 507 votes in favour and 25 against, the Constituent Assembly approved the draft proposal, the first by elected representatives. Nepal’s long and tortuous journey towards a new constitution began in 2006 when a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed under the auspices of the United Nations ending a decade-long civil war between the regular army and Maoist guerrillas.

    The first constituent assembly was elected in 2007 after 240 years of absolute Hindu monarchy but ended in 2012 in a stalemate. A second Assembly came into being in November 2013 but it too failed to come up with a constitution by the January 2015 deadline.

    The tragic earthquake on 25 April (which killed more than 9,000 people) speeded up the reform process, which is set to end this Saturday, 20 September, with the promulgation of the constitution by the president of Nepal, Ram Baran Yadav. This will be followed by two days (Sunday and Monday) of celebrations across the country.

    The new constitution is divided in 37 parts, 302 articles and 9 annexes. Its key aspects are a republican form of government, federalism, secularism, inclusiveness and proportional representation of disadvantaged minorities, as well as policies of social justice.

    For Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, head of the Nepali Congress, this was a “moment of pride,” the happiest day of his political career. “We have made our dream come true,” he said. The demands of those who are dissatisfied “will be met through dialogue” and amendments.

    Parties representing the Madhese and Tharu minorities boycotted yesterday's vote, whilst the Hindu-centred Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal opposed it, calling instead for the restoration of the monarchy and the Hindu kingdom.

    The adoption of the constitution comes after weeks of discussion, centred on the content of the draft  approved in late June. When the draft was first made public, Madhese and Tharu leaders complained immediately that it ignored their communities.

    This led to clashes with the army and eventually casualties. So far, about 40 people have died, including a child, trampled to death by a crowd.

    More recently, the growing climate of insecurity led Nepali authorities to ask the Holy See to cancel a visit by one of its officials, Card Fernando Filoni. The latter was scheduled to meet with survivors of the earthquake of 25 April.

    The escalation reached a crescendo Tuesday night when bombs exploded in front of three Protestant churches in the Terai region, killing three police officers.

    "Our demands were not heard,” said Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar, a leader of the Madhese minority who boycotted the vote. “The new constitution will not improve as long as it does not incorporates the voices of minority groups."

    Conversely, the speaker of the Constituent Assembly Subas Nembang stressed the importance of the event. Although the country has had six constitution since the 1950s, this “is the first one that was democratically approved.”

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    See also

    08/10/2007 NEPAL
    For the first time Catholics urged to vote
    The First Apostolic Vicar to Nepal, Mgr Anthony Francis Sharma, tells the faithful to go out and vote, stressing the importance of voting for those who, in good conscience, want the good of the nation. The last rampart of the last Hindu monarchy in the world falls.

    31/05/2012 NEPAL
    Nepali Christians hope rights promised by government are not mere propaganda
    Nepal's Maoist government signs a six-point deal with the Christian minority. The authorities agree to defend the rights of Catholics and Protestants and ensure their representation in parliament. With the failure of the constituent assembly, the country could implode economically and socially.

    28/08/2015 NEPAL
    Minority parties quit last session of Constituent Assembly
    Madhese and Tharu representatives reject proposed administrative divisions adopted by the big parties. Under a revised version, the constitution’s final draft would include a seventh province. Since it became a secular state in 2007, Nepal has not yet adopted a final constitution.

    07/04/2008 NEPAL
    Voting for constituent assembly near, millions of voters still abroad as Maoist violence continues
    A long holiday is scheduled to allow everyone to vote, but for millions of Nepalis living abroad who want to vote the trek home is too long. The United Nations calls on Maoists to stop pre-election attacks and violence.

    30/05/2017 13:01:00 NEPAL
    Second phase of local elections postponed. Discontent among minorities

    Date moved to allow the registration of the main Rashtriya Janata party. They ask for the release of executives and more local units in Terai. Meanwhile, the nomadic raute ethnic group, in difficulty because of deforestation, calls for the right to vote.

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