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Blast outside imperiled Nepal parliament as crisis looms

Friday, May 28, 2010 08:32:28 PM, IANS

Kathmandu: A blast took place outside Nepalís endangered parliament late Friday, just hours before the term of the house ends and a constitutional crisis threatens the nascent Himalayan republic. There were no casualties.

Police said they were investigating the explosion near the main gate of the International Convention Centre where most of Nepalís 601 MPs, including ministers, have gathered for a late-night parliamentary session that will either bail out the house or see it dissolved at midnight.

The situation was reminiscent of a similar scene two years ago when the newly-elected constituent assembly, that is also Nepalís interim parliament, held a near-midnight session and formally abolished the monarchy in the worldís only Hindu kingdom.

Confusion reigned in the house late Friday evening with hope receding fast as Nepalís ruling parties and the opposition Maoists still remained deadlocked in a fierce dispute, oblivious to the crisis just hours away.

While parliament, scheduled to sit at 8 a.m., was yet to convene, embattled Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal emerged from unsuccessful talks to head for the presidentís office, triggering speculation about possible presidentís rule from midnight.

The failure of the parties to promulgate a new constitution by Friday means parliament will be dissolved at midnight. Along with it, the government will also be dissolved.

The ruling parties say the government can continue for another six months as a caretaker government. However, to do that, it will have to declare a state of emergency, which can be justified only if there is a war or natural calamity.

The only way out is amending the constitution and extending the Friday midnight deadline.

However, though the ruling parties have tabled a motion in parliament to amend the statute, the Maoists have introduced a veto.

The battle will continue on the floor of the house when the motions are put to vote. Neither side will win since an amendment needs the support of two-third of the 601 lawmakers. With the Maoists holding over 40 percent of the seats, the government will not be able to secure the extension unless the former rebels capitulate.

A lawmaker began a fast unto death before the constituent assembly in protest while in Pokhara city, a man who had taken part in the pro-democracy protests in 2006 began burning effigies of the lawmakers.

In towns outside Kathmandu valley, protesters began marches, warning lawmakers not to return home till they had completed their task.

It is not clear yet what will happen after midnight if the deadlock continues.

Some legal experts say the president, till now a constitutional head, will have to take over. The president will then appoint a caretaker prime minister or do what he deems fit.







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