Nepal fails to pass controversial constitution amendment | daily-sun.com

Nepal fails to pass controversial constitution amendment

AFP     21st August, 2017 08:47:26 printer

Nepal fails to pass controversial constitution amendment

Nepal's parliament on Monday failed to pass a controversial amendment to the constitution after it was blocked by the main opposition party, amid deep political divisions ahead of key polls later this year.

 

The government failed to get the two-thirds majority to pass the bill that has been the centre of contentious political debate and party horsetrading for nearly two years.

 

"The proposal to endorse the constitution amendment bill has been rejected by the house," House Speaker Onsari Gharti told parliament after the vote, to cheers from the opposition benches.

 

The constitution was passed in 2015 nearly a decade after the end of the brutal Maoist insurgency, cementing the impoverished Himalayan nation's transformation from a Hindu monarchy to a democratic federal republic.

 

But it sparked deadly protests by ethnic minority groups from the southern lowlands that border India, who say the charter leaves them politically marginalised.

 

The Madhesi ethnic minority -- who share close cultural links to India -- have been calling for an amendment that would redraw federal boundaries to give them greater representation in parliament.

 

They have also demanded Hindi be recognised as a national language and changes to the citizenship laws which are seen as unfairly penalising dual-national families, a particular issue in the lowlands where there are many cross-border marriages.

 

Since the constitution was passed nearly two years ago, two subsequent governments have saught to temper the simmering Madhesi protest movement by promising to push through an amendment bill.

 

The nationalistic opposition has repeatedly prevented the government from bringing the bill to a parliamentary vote, while stoking anti-India sentiment.

 

In the process, the text of the amendment has been repeatedly watered down in an attempt by the government to gain enough support to pass the bill.

 

"This is a way to make the issues politically sellable for all the parties and move ahead," Akhilesh Upadhyay, editor at The Kathmandu Post newspaper, said of Monday's amendment vote which was widely expected to fail.

 

The government on Monday also announced that general elections will be held on November 26. Elections to seven provincial assemblies will also be held on the same day.

 

The final round of local elections -- the first in 20 years -- are due to take place in September.

 

The Madhesi political parties had refused to take part in the polls unless an amendment to the charter was tabled in parliament.

 

The polls are the final step in the country's drawn-out peace process and observers hope they will bring political stability to the impoverished Himalayan nation.

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