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Nepal parliament weighing constitution rewrite after first meeting

[JURIST] A much-awaited motion promising to hold an election of a constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution in Nepal [JURIST news archive] was tabled in the parliament Friday, as the House of Representatives met for the first time in four years. A representative of Nepal's prime minister-designate Girija Prasad Koirala [Wikipedia profile] tabled the motion in the historic session of the parliament which was reinstated on the strength of the 18-day pro-democracy people's movement [JURIST news archive], which saw death of 17 people and thousands injured. The parliament is scheduled to discuss the motion on Sunday and will likely decide in favor of holding elections for the constituent assembly. Analysts say the constituent assembly will decide the fate of the 237-year-old monarchy [official website] in this Himalayan Kingdom. Once the parliament decides to go for an election of the constituent assembly, Nepali people will for the first time in history write their constitution [current text] themselves.

Nepal's royal palace had resisted calls for a reinstatement of parliament and a new constitution from the pro-democracy seven-party alliance and the outlawed Maoist rebels [BBC backgrounder] until King Gyanendra [BBC profile] agreed to meet the demands of the oppositions earlier this week.

As the motion was tabled Friday, thousands of civil society members, professionals, students and human right activists organized a sit-in in front of the entry gate of the parliament in a bid to exert pressure on the parliamentarians to decide to go for the election of the constituent assembly. The mass became angry upon hearing that the parliament did not reach any conclusion on the issue. Analysts say an election of the constituent assembly could open the door to a political solution to the 10-year old Maoist insurgency, which has claimed over 13,000 lives so far. Even the Maoists have said that they could put down their arms and renounce violence once the election of an unconditional constituent assembly is held. The rebels have been demanding the election of the constituent assembly for the last six years.

Kiran Chapagain is a special correspondent for JURIST writing from Nepal. He is an Assistant Senior Reporter for the Kathmandu Post.

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