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Nepal’s Constituent Assembly Comes Down to the Wire

Jed Brandt May 29, 2010

Update: The Prime Minister announced his resignation at 1 a.m. last night. There’s going to be an announcement of the constitutional draft today. Stay tuned here and at JedBrandt.net

With two hours to go until the term of Nepal’s elected Constituent Assembly draws to a close, women delegates of the Maoist party are chanting and marching through the parliament chambers. Today was the deadline for Nepal’s first democratic constitution, and compromise between the Maoists and the government parties appears elusive.

Crowds have gathered around the assembly building throughout the day, with marches from Tribhuvan University, indigenous organizations and others rallying for the resignation of the widely unpopular Prime Minister MK Nepal and for a Maoist-led national unity government. All sides have hardened their position, with Maoists thus far rejecting any extension of the Constituent Assembly unless the sitting government resigns.

At stake are the democratic consensus among the political parties, reforms to the state and the peace process which ushered in the Constituent Assembly and overthrew Nepal’s monarchy.

Maoists have expressed concern that President Yadav will assert power in the coming days, with backing from the army. The current prime minister has around 6% support, according to recent polling.

The Maoists called off their general strike in the first week of May, saying they wished to see the Constituent Assembly process through to its conclusion. Debate within their Central Committee raged throughout the week, with a strong minority arguing for immediate revolt. They agreed to maintain their position of “maximum flexibility” — but that may not avert the crisis.

Should the Constituent Assembly fail to deliver a constitution, or at least the return of Maoists to leadership in the government — there will effectively be no government as of midnight.

On Saturday, May 29, the Maoists will rally at Ratna Park in the center of Kathmandu for a mass meeting to unveil their constitutional draft. But with little room for peaceful accord, no one quite knows what to expect.

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