Nepal’s political parties averted a crisis on May 29 by reaching a last-minute deal that extended the deadline for a new constitution. Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal agreed to step down as part of the deal.
The deal prevented Nepal from tumbling into the political unknown. A special legislative body, known as the Constituent Assembly, that was charged with drafting a constitution was scheduled to adjourn if a deal had not been reached. Analysts warned of a political crisis if Nepal had been left without a constitution.
But lawmakers finally agreed to extend the Constituent Assembly by three months. The rival parties agreed to introduce the draft of a new constitution during that period and to address questions about the fate of 19,000 former Maoist fighters and their weaponry.
Nepal has been embroiled in contentious political negotiations for more than a year over the shape of the constitution as well as the final details of a peace agreement that ended a bloody Maoist insurgency.
The Constituent Assembly was elected in 2008 with a mandate to draft a constitution within two years. Yet lawmakers had been unable to reach a deal because of distrust and differences among the major parties. A year ago, a similar 11th hour deal was required to prevent the dissolution of the legislative body.
One of the biggest obstacles is the unresolved fate of former Maoist fighters who are living in camps around the country. Under the peace agreement, many of the fighters are to be integrated into Nepal’s security forces, but the parties have been unable to agree on the details.