From Sunday, Nepal government becomes null and void

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : Nepal’s coalition government faces its gravest crisis ever with just 48 hours left to it, after which it will become constitutionally null and void.

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“From Sunday, the government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala loses its validity and the constitution itself becomes null and void,” warned Shambhu Thapa, one of the framers of the new constitution and a leading lawyer in Nepal.

The crisis has come due to the government’s inability to hold a critical election in November.

The constitution, promulgated in January, had decreed that a constituent assembly election would be held in the Nepali winter month of Mangsir, which ends Saturday.

After the election, the constitution was to have handed over charge to the elected assembly, which would have started writing a new constitution.

However, the Maoists, who had waged a 10-year war in the past demanding the election, walked out of the coalition government in September, causing the polls scheduled for Nov 22 to be postponed indefinitely.

Since the rebels’ exit, they have remained locked in a fierce dispute with Koirala over the fate of King Gyanendra and the election method, paralysing the fragile peace process.

The Maoists are demanding that the king be sacked immediately to ensure a free and fair election and have the backing of the majority of parliamentarians.

However, they need to garner two-thirds majority in the house to get their way and that has been blocked due to Koirala’s opposition, since the premier heads the biggest party in the house.

“The major parties should have had amended the constitution by Mangsir,” Thapa told IANS. “But they are not interested in interpreting the constitution and upholding the rule of law. All they want is to hold on to power.”

Even moving at lightning speed, it takes at least 72 hours to amend the constitution.

Thapa says time is running out for the government, the statute and the country with just 48 hours left in the Nepali month.

So far, the government has failed to table any proposal in the parliament to amend the constitution.

Though the house had convened Thursday, Koirala remained preoccupied with the latest blow delivered by a senior minister from the Terai plains who quit the cabinet as well as his party along with three other powerful MPs to form a regional alliance.

The next session of the house is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

But even if the government moves the amendment proposal in the upcoming session, Thapa says it can’t be implemented by Saturday.

“The result is the rape of the constitution and the perpetration of a fraud,” the constitution maker said.

Oblivious to the crisis, the ruling parties and the Maoists still remained locked in dispute.

Though the top leaders of the parties were expected to meet Friday to hammer out an agreement, the meeting, like in the past, was put off for Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Maoists have issued a fresh warning.

They have cautioned the government that if an agreement was not reached Saturday, they would start a new revolt from Sunday that though peaceful, would aim at ousting the Koirala government.