x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Nepal in turmoil as constitution talks fail

The premier, Baburam Bhattarai, calls new elections, but critics claim he lacks the power to do so.

KATHMANDU // Nepal sank into political turmoil yesterday after parliamentarians failed to agree on a new constitution, leaving the country with no legal government.

The premier, Baburam Bhattarai, called new elections, but critics claim he lacks the power to do so.

Security forces were on high alert but Kathmandu was largely quiet due to a national holiday.

Riot police patrolled the streets after several political parties called for rallies to demand the resignation of Mr Bhattarai, and to protest against his unilateral decision to call elections for November.

"The country has plunged into a serious crisis," said Ram Sharan Mahat, a high-ranking member of the country's second-largest party, the Nepali Congress.

He added that six months would not be enough time to prepare for polling. "This government has no legitimate grounds to continue," he said.

The squabbling political parties in the Constituent Assembly had failed to agree on a new blueprint for the nation by their own deadline of midnight on Sunday, despite repeated extensions of the due date over the past four years.

A key sticking point was whether the country's states should be drawn to give regional power bases to ethnic minorities.