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Nepal Maoists agree to join parliament

Maoists agree to join the country's constituent assembly, ending a month-long political deadlock.

Last updated: 24 Dec 2013 14:19
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The Maoists party chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, lost his constituency seat in the November polls [EPA]

Nepal's Maoists agreed to join the country's constituent assembly, ending a month-long political deadlock and raising hopes of long-awaited political stability in the Himalayan nation.

A senior leader said on Tuesday that the Maoists, who took power at the ballot box after a decade-long civil war but were routed in last month's election for a new assembly, would join the body after other political parties promised to probe their claims of vote-rigging.

"We have agreed to join the assembly and help draft a constitution," senior Maoist official Narayan Kaji Shrestha told AFP news agency.

The assembly will act as a parliament as well as drafting a new charter.

Renewed turmoil

The Maoists threw the country into renewed turmoil when they claimed fraud in the November 19 elections, which were seen as key to completing a peace process after the war that killed 16,000 ended in 2006.

The former rebels swept the first post-war elections in 2008, toppling the 240-year-old Hindu monarchy and transforming the kingdom into a secular republic.

At the November polls, the former guerrillas won just 80 out of 575 seats and came a distant third behind the Nepali Congress and Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML) parties.

On Tuesday the Maoists signed a deal forged with the other parties to join the assembly, after a clause on the promised probe was included.

Senior Maoist leader Shrestha said they signed the agreement "for the sake of the peace process".

"If each party remains adamant on its position, then how can we reach a deal?" he said. "Our focus now is on delivering the constitution within a year."

Ram Chandra Paudel, a senior leader from the Nepali Congress which is expected to lead the new government, told reporters: "This agreement has made us all very happy."

"This is the first step towards drafting the constitution," Paudel said. International observers have expressed concern at the impact of the prolonged turmoil on Nepal, which relies on tourism, remittances and aid, and where annual economic growth has slumped to 4.6 percent. 

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AFP
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