Nepal Extends Parliament Term as Maoist PM Sworn In

Posted August 29th, 2011 at 7:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Lawmakers in Nepal on Monday agreed to extend the term of the country's parliament for another three months so lawmakers can draft a new constitution, as part of the country's long-delayed peace process.

The parliament, or Constituent Assembly, voted in favor of the extension shortly after the deputy leader of Nepal's former Maoist rebels, Baburam Bhattarai, was sworn in as the country's new prime minister.

Bhattarai won 340 votes Sunday in the 601-seat parliament after receiving the backing of the country's smaller political parties.

He has named a deputy prime minister from the coalition, but is still negotiating over other Cabinet positions.

The 57-year-old replaces former prime minister Jhalnath Khanal, who resigned August 14 after failing to advance the country's peace process.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland congratulated Mr. Bhattarai on his election and said the U.S. looks forward to continuing the “warm and constructive” relationship it has with Nepal.

Nuland said the United States is hopeful Mr. Bhattarai's election will give renewed momentum both to the peace process and to the drafting of Nepal's constitution.

In New York, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Mr. Bhattarai's election and said he hopes to see the early establishment of an inclusive government through consensus and compromise. Mr. Ban reaffirmed the continued support of the U.N.

Nepal's government has been deadlocked since June 2010, when then prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned under pressure from the Maoist opposition.

The Maoists have more seats in parliament than any other party, but not enough to govern alone. They were allowed to rejoin the government after a 2006 peace deal ended their decade-long insurgency that claimed more than 13,000 lives.

The peace process has since been stalled by deep differences between the country's political parties. They disagree over the shape of the new constitution and the fate of about 19,000 former Maoist fighters who are living in camps.