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  • Kathmandu residents protest a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL – 21 January 2015. After an early-morning brawl between opposition and ruling party lawmakers erupted at the Constituent Assembly (CA) and a daylong strike that shuttered Kathmandu on Tuesday, Nepali lawmakers met once again to discuss key provisions of the long-awaited Constitution at 11:00 am on Wednesday. However, little was achieved, as the session was postponed after only 15 minutes to 1:30pm; after only 10 minutes of meeting, the session was again suspended until Thursday – the CA’s self-imposed deadline for promulgating the new Constitution. Meanwhile, Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal apologized for the brawl that erupted in the CA early Tuesday morning, further explaining that the party had told its members to chant slogans in order to disrupt proceedings, but that they had had no intention of starting a fight.

    At the heart of the debate regarding the Constitution is the issue of federalism. The Maoist-led 30-party alliance is calling for around a dozen identity-based states in order to address issues of discrimination against marginalized groups, while the ruling Nepali Congress party and the Unified Marxist-Leninist party are against such a system. The Maoists have threatened to boycott the new Constitution and to stage mass protests if the ruling party pushes the Constitution through the CA without first establishing consensus, and say negotiations should continue until such a consensus is reached.

    Outside of the Constituent Assembly, at least four groups of protesters demonstrated against the draft of the Constitution, and in particular over issues related to federalism and the rights of marginalized groups in Nepal. Meanwhile, the international community, through the United Nations Resident Coordinator, issued a statement calling on all parties to return to the negotiating table and condemned “violence or threats of violence.” However, with the opposition coalition and the ruling parties still unable to come to an agreement, it is increasing likely that the deadline for promulgating the Constitution will be delayed once again.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala greets members of the press at his arrival at the Constituent Assembly for today’s meeting on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: Nepali opposition lawmakers shout slogans while obstructing today's meeting of the country's Constituent Assembly on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: Nepali police forces stand behind a razor wired barricade set up to impede access to protesters to the Constituent Assembly a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: Nepali police forces block demonstrators during a protest near the Constituent Assembly a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: An opposition supporter places a headband on a fellow demonstrator during a protest in Babarmahal towards the Constituent Assembly a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: A demonstrator holds a flag as a group of protesters march towards the Constituent Assembly a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo; ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: A group of women march in Babarmahal holding flags during a protest a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: Demonstrators march in Babarmahal while police forces watch from an elevated position during a protest a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: A group of demonstrators lead a march while shouting slogans during a protest a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: A demonstrator holding banners sits on the ground as police forces block their march during a protest near the Constituent Assembly a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: A protester shouts slogans while leading a march during a protest a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 21, 2015: Nepali police forces block access to a group of pro-constitution students a day ahead of the deadline for a new constitution on January 21, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    Photography: © Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved.