12:00 AM, May 15, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 15, 2010

Nepal heading for major political crisis

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Ap, Katmandu

Time is running out for Nepal.
More than two years after a Constituent Assembly was elected to help guide Nepal out of years of civil war and political upheaval, the constitution it was supposed to draft remains unwritten amid endless political bickering.
On May 28, the Assembly's tenure and the provisional constitution governing the nation expires. Without a new constitution or an extension of that deadline, chaos is almost certain.
With the deadline approaching, the former Maoist rebels who now control the largest party in parliament have repeatedly shut down the streets of Katmandu with protests, demanding they be given the reigns of power. The government has resisted, but still needs Maoist votes to come to a resolution.
"The prime minister has been meeting leaders from various political parties and even the president to work out a solution," Law Minister Prem Bahadur Singh said. "There is no alternative to extending the Constituent Assembly or the country will plunge into a crisis."
The status of the government becomes unclear if there is no extension. However, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has insisted he will not step down, even without one.
Political crises are nothing new to Nepal, which faced 10 years of fighting between government forces and Maoist rebels. In 2006, the Maoists gave up their armed revolt and joined the peace process.
Then-King Gyanendra, who had seized absolute power in 2005, was forced to give up authoritarian rule in 2006 after weeks of street protests. He was soon stripped of all his powers. In 2008, Nepal was declared a republic, the Constituent Assembly was elected and the centuries-old monarchy was ended.
The Maoists won top billing in that vote, and led a coalition government that appeared on target to draft the new constitution and cement peace, stability and democracy to this Himalayan nation.
But nine months later, the Maoist prime minister resigned though the Maoists kept their seats in the Assembly amid a dispute with the president.
Since then, the Maoists have been protesting both inside the Assembly and in the streets, demanding that the new prime minister step down and that they be returned to power. Meanwhile, disputes over the shape of the constitution have stymied the drafting process.

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