Nepal Fails to Agree on New Constitution

Posted May 27th, 2012 at 8:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Nepal's Prime Minister Baburam Ghattarai called for new elections after the term of the country's parliament, the Constituent Assembly, expired at Sunday midnight without completing the task of writing a new post-war constitution.

Mr. Ghattarai, who leads a national unity government made up of the country's four main political parties, said the Constituent Assembly had failed to achieve its goal and that he would stay in office until the new polls, scheduled for November 22, take place.

The Constituent Assembly, created in 2008 after the abolition of Nepal's centuries-old Hindu monarchy, was tasked with drafting the far-reaching document, but was unable to finish the task. Its tenure was extended four times, but the Supreme Court rejected any further extensions.

The four main parties were attempting to resolve differences over whether new states to be created by the constitution will be drawn on the basis of ethnicity. Opponents of the idea said it could fuel more unrest.

As the midnight deadline approached, thousands of people gathered outside the parliament building in the capital, Kathmandu, and clashed with riot police. Police used tear gas and several people were reportedly injured in the skirmishes.

Last November, Nepal's main political parties agreed to a deal to integrate thousands of former Maoist fighters into the army, a move seen as bolstering the peace process.

Maoist rebels were allowed to join the government after a 2006 peace deal ended their decade-long insurgency that claimed more than 13,000 lives.