Kathmandu: Nepalese lawmakers tabled the draft of a long-awaited new constitution in parliament late on Tuesday, prompting protests from opposition members who tore up copies of the charter and said it violated a recent court order.
Spurred by April’s devastating quake, Nepal’s parties struck a historic deal to end years of limbo and draw up a new constitution three weeks ago, agreeing to divide the country into eight provinces and appoint a federal commission to decide on internal borders.
The country’s supreme court, however, termed the agreement unconstitutional and issued a stay order against it, citing an interim charter that calls for lawmakers to restructure the state comprehensively before approving a new constitution and dissolving the constituent assembly.
“After several ups and downs in the country, we are ready to present the first draft of the new constitution,” said lawmaker, Krishna Prasad Sitaula from the ruling Nepali Congress party.
“There are still challenges ahead… parties will have to discuss various issues in the draft and record their differing views in the coming days,” Sitaula told lawmakers as angry opposition members screamed slogans and tore up copies of the charter.
“We don’t want a fast-track constitution,” they chanted.
Opposition lawmakers have long pushed for new provinces to be created along lines that could favour historically marginalised communities, but other parties said this would be divisive and a threat to national unity.
The new draft paves the way for a federal Nepal but leaves the crucial issue of internal borders unresolved.
Upendra Yadav, chairman of the regional Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Nepal party, told reporters the draft was “undemocratic”.
“The constituent assembly can’t violate the supreme court’s interim order that was issued just a few weeks ago,” Yadav said after the meeting was adjourned.
“The attempt to bring a new constitution this way is undemocratic and against constitutional norms and values. We can’t accept such undemocratic procedures,” he said.
The next meeting of the constituent assembly is scheduled on Thursday, when lawmakers will discuss the draft before holding public consultations and an eventual vote on its provisions.
The constitution was intended to conclude a peace process begun in 2006 when former Maoist rebels laid down arms and entered politics.
But political infighting confounded efforts to hammer out a deal, throwing parliament into disarray and crippling the economy.