KATHMANDU (AFP) – Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala Friday accused opposition Maoists of turning parliament into a battleground and derailing efforts to secure agreement on a new constitution before a midnight deadline expired.
“The constituent assembly has become a showcase for agitation, vandalism and chaos,” said Koirala, at the end of a week which saw lawmakers come to blows in parliament as tensions rose over the delayed charter.
“Some political parties…have taken the route of strikes and protests, seriously obstructing efforts to write the constitution,” Koirala said in a televised address to the nation.
Nepal’s parties have spent years locked in a stalemate over the charter while political power plays have confounded efforts to reach an agreement, analysts say.
Opposition lawmakers led by former Maoist rebels this week blocked parliamentary proceedings, storming into the well of the main chamber and shouting slogans, in a bid to prevent ruling party politicians from proposing a vote on disputed issues in the charter.
“Announce a constitution based on consensus,” lawmakers chanted.
Parliament Speaker Subhash Nembang Friday urged lawmakers to end the disruption and instructed them to hammer out an agreement or be prepared for a vote, before adjourning the assembly until Sunday.
“People want answers from us, they are watching us and they are waiting,” Nembang said.
As political rifts have widened, the impoverished Himalayan nation has sunk deeper into paralysis and anger has spilled over on to the streets, with opposition parties staging a nationwide strike last Tuesday.
The constitution was intended to conclude a peace process begun in 2006 when Maoist guerrillas entered politics, ending a decade-long insurgency that left an estimated 16,000 people dead.
But six prime ministers and two elections later, political infighting has crippled efforts to resolve the deadlock, analysts say.
“Individual leaders are cynically holding the constitution hostage to their petty interests… they are basically jockeying for future positions as PM and president while negotiating our future,” said Kunda Dixit, editor of the Nepali Times weekly.
“Their ambitions have overwhelmed any push for an agreement… and they are unable to compromise because of a ‘winner takes all’ attitude,” Dixit told AFP.