Nepal parties meet to reach deal before deadline

Kathmandu: Nepal`s four major political parties are meeting today in a last ditch effort to forge consensus on the constitution drafting before midnight deadline and avert dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly will be automatically dissolved if parties failed to promulgate the new constitution by midnight, pushing the country into a fresh political crisis.

The Constituent Assembly was elected to a two-year term in 2008 to draft a new constitution but has been unable to finish the task. Its tenure has been extended four times. The Supreme Court last week rejected a three-month extension proposed by the cabinet and asked political parties to complete it within the May 27 deadline. The four main parties are attempting to resolve differences over whether the states proposed in the constitution should be determined on the basis of ethnicity.

Earlier, during the bilateral and multi-lateral meetings, the top leaders of the major political parties dwelt on various possibilities to end the ongoing deadlock as just few hours are left for dissolution of the Constituent Assembly with no agreement to announce the new constitution. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai this morning called on President Ram Baran Yadav and briefed him about the latest political development.

The President is understood to have told Bhattarai to finalize the constitution so as to avert the deadlock. There seems to have emerged polarization among the political parties regarding the model of state restructuring with the Maoist-Madhesi Front sticking to the idea of federating the states on singular ethnicity while the Nepali Congress-CPN(UML) alliance favouring the idea of federating the states on the basis of multi-ethnicity and economic viability.

The discussion of the political parties have focused on several options. One of the options is to announce a brief constitution by forging understanding among the political parties on minimum points while the other way is to complete the draft constitution by forging agreement on the contentious issues of state restructuring. The top political leaders have met chairman of the Constituent Assembly to discuss ways to avert the possible political crisis as there is thin possibility of drafting the constitution as the deadline expires on mid-night of Sunday.

If the Constituent Assembly is to be dissolved without preparing the draft constitution then the government may opt for announcing fresh election for Constituent Assembly, say political observers. Security has been stepped up in and around the capital to prevent any untoward incident as the country is dragged into a deeper constitutional and political crisis with the parties failing to forge agreement in the contentious issues. The government has mobilized some over 10,000 security personnel in the capital and the army is also kept on alert, according to officials.

Security has been tightened around the International Convention Centre at Naya Baneshwor where the Constituent Assembly meetings take place as thousands of people from various ethnic groups and class organisations are surrounding the building to exert pressure on the political parties for timely promulgation of the statute.