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  • Chaos in the Nepali Constituent Assembly on the deadline of the new constitution

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL – 22 January 2015. After Tuesday’s early morning brawl between opposition and ruling party lawmakers at the Constituent Assembly (CA) and a daylong strike that shuttered Kathmandu, Nepali lawmakers met once again to discuss key provisions of the long-awaited Constitution on Thursday. However, chaos erupted soon after the session started, as ruling party lawmakers attempted to put forth a vote on pending issues in the constitution over which the opposition and ruling parties disagree, a move that was obstructed by the opposition. The session was once again delayed to Friday.

    The CA had given itself the 22 January deadline to promulgate a new constitution, but the issue of federalism has been keeping the parties from coming to an agreement over the substance of the constitution. The Maoist-led 30-party alliance has been 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 repeatedly 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.

    On Wednesday, 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.” Analysts fear that furthering delaying the constitution, which is the last step in the peace process started in 2006, will result in increased risks of unrest throughout the country and in widespread disillusionment with the political process on the part of the electorate.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Constituent Assembly is searched by a  security staff member at one of the main entrances to the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Security staff protect the main stage while opposition lawmakers obstruct the resumption of today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Members of the Nepali opposition chant slogans while boycotting today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Nepali opposition shouts slogans while security staff members make a human barrier during today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Members of the Nepali opposition are pushed back by security staff while boycotting today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Members of the Nepali opposition are pushed by security staff while boycotting today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: Members of the Nepali opposition kick a table while boycotting today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Nepali parliament watches the chaos inside the Constituent Assembly during today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Nepali opposition climbs on top of a table during today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution at the Constituent Assembly in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY 22, 2015: A member of the Nepali parliament takes a photo of the opposition protests inside the Constituent Assembly during today’s meeting on the deadline for a new constitution in Kathmandu, Nepal on January 22, 2015. Photo: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

    Photography: ©Omar Havana / All Rights are Reserved

  • 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.

  • Nepal opposition strike shutters Kathmandu

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL – JANUARY 20, 2015. After a clash at the Constituent Assembly between the opposition and ruling party turned violent late last night, resulting in opposition members throwing chairs and breaking desks and microphones, Nepal woke up this morning to a nationwide strike. The strike had been called for by an alliance of 30 opposition parties, including the United Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN) – Maoists, and has effectively shuttered the country.

    Streets of Nepal’s capital city Kathmandu remained empty of traffic all day, with the exception of official vehicles and ambulances, while most of the city’s public transportation was banned forcing residents to use other method of transportation or to walk long distances. Most schools, shops and restaurants chose to stay closed, bringing most of Nepal’s economy to a halt. Police and army forces have been deployed throughout the country, with police officers in full riot gear present throughout Kathmandu. Opposition supporters enforcing the strikes are reported to have set several vehicles on fire, including trucks carrying copies of local newspapers Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post, in several districts throughout the country.

    Today’s strike follows a series of strikes, known as “Bandhs” in Nepal, held last week and comes two days before the Constituent Assembly’s latest deadline to promulgate a draft of the long-awaited constitution. With the opposition coalition and the ruling parties still at a disagreement over key aspects of the constitution, and in particular the issue of federalism, worries are mounting that the deadline for promulgating the constitution will be yet again delayed.

    Further strikes and protests have been planned by the opposition for the coming days. UCPN-Maoists have stated that they are planning a mass protest and to symbolically burn the constitution if it is promulgated on Thursday. Meanwhile, the country remains on high alert, waiting to see what the newest political developments will be and what the consequences of those developments will mean for the average Nepali citizen.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A woman walks on Kathmandu’s ring road emptied of traffic during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A man sits in the middle of Kathmandu’s ring road during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A stray dog sleeps in front of the main door of a store in the tourist neighbourhood of Thamel during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: Nepali police forces stand in front of closed businesses in the Maharajgunj neighbourhood during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A petrol station is closed in the Baluwatar neighbourhood during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: Two members of the Nepali Police forces stand in front of a closed shop while a young child looks at the empty street in the Lazimpat neighbourhood during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: Members of the Nepali army walk on Durbar Marg street, emptied of traffic during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A group of Kathmandu residents ride in a rickshaw, one of the only forms of public transportation circulating today in the city, during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A group of teenagers play football in the middle of an empty street as vehicles have been banned around the city during the opposition bandh that shuttered the city on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    KATHMANDU, NEPAL - JANUARY, 20: A woman walk near the Japanese embassy while few drivers defy the opposition bandh that shuttered the city and banned vehicles on the streets of Kathmandu on January 20, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo: ©Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights are Reserved.

    Photography: © Omar Havana / Al Jazeera. All Rights Are Reserved

    Published by Al Jazzera.