Nepali President Orders Consensus Government

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KATHMANDU, Nepal, Aug. 16 (UPI) — Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav gave the Constituent Assembly until next Sunday to form a government of consensus or the country will go to the polls.

Yadav issued a brief statement to national media soon after Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal stepped down Sunday under increasing pressure from all parties, including his own CPN-UML.

Khanal tendered his resignation after less than eight months in office.

“The major tasks of accomplishing the peace process and writing the new constitution have not progressed as desired,” a statement by Khanal’s office said. “The prime minister stepped down with an objective to pave the way for forming a national consensus government and expedite the statute drafting and peace process.”

No political party has a majority in the Constituent Assembly, Nepal’s Parliament, so there was a grueling seven months of voting by members before Khanal emerged the winner. His party managed to gain power with the backing of the Maoist political party.

He will stay on until a new prime minister is chosen by the political parties in the Assembly or an election for new Constituent Assembly takes place and the possibility of a single party getting a majority votes.

The president gave no date for an election should the political parties fail to choose a successor to Khanal.

Maoist rebels ended their decade-long armed struggle in 2006 and their political leadership joined other political parties in trying to create a more modern country. Nepal, historically a kingdom, remains a poor and isolated nation high the Himalayan Mountains with India to the south and China to the north.

Around 15,000 people were killed and up to 150,000 people displaced in fighting by the Maoist’s Communist Party of Nepal who wanted to set up a republic.

The peace accord of November 2006, monitored by U.N. mission in Nepal, allowed the political parties to abolish the monarchy in early 2008 and work on writing a new constitution.

But agreeing on a constitution and how to bring the thousands of former Maoist fighters who still live in their rural camps into mainstream Nepali life have proved elusive to the country’s continually divided and argumentative Assembly.

Constituent Assembly Chairman Subash Chandra Nembang said that there was no alternative to forming a government of national consensus.

“There is no doubt on the formation of the national consensus government,” he said. “Unity among the parties is the need of the hour since the nation is passing through hard times.”

As all the parties start haggling over who will support who, a major contender is Baburam Bhattarai whose Maoist party has the most seats in Parliament.

Up until his weekend resignation, Khanal was in negotiations with political parties and Maoist insurgent leaders to set up a rehabilitation package for the former Maoist combatants.

The main proposal on the table is to integrate up to 8,000 combatants into the Nepal’s army under a new directorate aimed at rescue and relief operations, industrial security, guarding forests and general duties to help national infrastructure projects.

The directorate would also have combat duties.

Khanal was hoping to have the army set up registration points in towns and villages by the end of August to begin the integration process. No political party has confirmed the date.

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