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Nepal struggles to shape a government that can govern

Nepal, which pulled out of civil war in 2006, has had three coalition governments in three years. Lawmakers just agreed to extend parliament by three months, but few are hopeful they'll soon resolve thorny issues.

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The Maoists, who fought a 10-year armed insurgency that ended with the signing of the peace accord, were elected in 2008 as the largest force in the assembly that doubles as parliament. The insurgency cost more than 17,000 lives, according to government’s revised figures.

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Their dominant presence in the parliament gives them an edge on rival parties in pushing political agendas. But they don’t command a majority, which explains Nepal's three coalition governments in as many years.

Sunday’s was the second term extension for the assembly. In May, 2010, the country was pulled back from the brink of the political unknown by extending the assembly's life for a year. Seven months were then spent in electing a new prime minister, and four months in agreeing on allocation of ministerial berths.

Ending a brutal war just four years ago, the Maoist political party has shown reluctance to fully disband its fighting force, instead keeping it in order to push political concessions. It has complicated political calm by repeatedly missed deadlines to settle the future of their combatants.

Postponing crisis

Just hours after the assembly’s term was extended after a night-long parliamentary session Sunday morning, interpretation about how and when the prime minister should resign highlighted the hurdles yet to come. The Nepali Congress wanted an immediate resignation, while the ruling parties insisted it should come after a new coalition takes shape.

“Sunday’s deal merely postponed crisis by three months,” says Bhimarjun Acharya, a political columnist and constitutional lawyer.

“The political parties have already started voicing conflicting interpretation of the agreement on the prime minister’s resignation. There is no doubt that they will spend most of the coming months interpreting the wordings of the agreement as suits them,” Mr. Acharya says.

Given the wrangling, Acharya argues that it is time the future of the assembly take a second seat to coming up with a new constitution.

“Our politicians have been cashing in on the widespread public sentiment that dissolution of the assembly would mean disaster. It is time to understand that saving the assembly and saving the peace process are two different things. Since it is clear that the assembly cannot draw up a new constitution, an alternative body has to be thought up,” he says.

Ghimire concurs. “Periodic election is fundamental in democracy. The assembly cannot indefinitely extend its own life. Sadly, the international community has condoned the undemocratic practice by welcoming two extensions of the assembly’s life,” he says.

The European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, and the United Nations Secretary-General have welcomed the assembly’s term extension.

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