Nepalese leaders fail to strike deal on constitution

Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattara, second from left, speaks during a press conference in Kathmandu on May 27, 2012.

Story highlights

  • The parliament, which had since 2008 to draft the constitution, is dissolved
  • "I do not want to blame anyone. We have to move forward," the prime minister says
  • He calls for elections to be held in November
Political leaders in Nepal failed Sunday to reach any kind of agreement on the country's new constitution, prompting the parliament to dissolve and pushing the nation even deeper into crisis.
Parties have had since 2008 to draft the constitution.
"We have failed," said Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. "I do not want to blame anyone. We have to move forward on the basis of political consensus."
He expressed hope that a new parliament might be able to reach a deal, calling for elections to be held on November 22.
That proposal was rejected by some other leaders.
"We should not lose heart. There is no alternative to moving forward," the prime minister said.
The content of the new constitution proved too contentious an issue between Maoists rebels, who fought a decade-long insurgency to end the Nepalese monarchy, and other parties.
Nepal, a mountainous country sandwiched between China and India, formally became a republic in 2008, following elections in which the former rebels became the biggest party, but fell short of a majority in the 601-member parliament.
Specially, Maoists and regional parties from southern Nepal want states divided based on ethnicity, while the second-largest party, Nepali Congress, is against the idea.
"We could not reach an agreement despite several meetings. So the possibility of promulgating the constitution has ended," said Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). "We are discussing other possibilities."
Meanwhile, the situation remained tense around where the Constituent Assembly meets, as riot police and protesters clashed.
Late into Sunday, negotiators were still discussing a range of possible paths forward, including elections and an extension of the parliament through the declaration of a state of emergency, Dahal said.
But Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokharel, from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the country's third-largest party, stressed there is no provision in the current interim constitution that would allow for a fresh election.
"There has been no agreement with other political parties over new elections," he said.