Nepal’s election commission yesterday gave the former ruling Maoists a five-day extension to propose members of a new parliament, a day after the party finally agreed to join the assembly.
“We have extended the deadline until Dec. 30,” election commission spokesman Bir Bahadur Rai said as he confirmed that the Maoists had requested more time to agree on a list of lawmakers.
All parties had been meant to submit names by yesterday and it is the third extension granted by the commission.
The composition of the constituent assembly has been in limbo since Nov. 19 elections, when the Maoists were beaten into third place, prompting them to allege fraud and threaten to boycott the parliament.
However, after weeks of cross-party negotiations, the Maoists announced on Tuesday that they would take part in the assembly, which is to serve as a legislative body and is also to draw up a new post-war constitution.
The Maoists waged a decade-long civil war and then forced King Gyanendra to stand down. They took power in the Himalayan nation after winning elections in 2008.
However, the intervening years have seen a string of short-lived administrations, which have broken down amid bickering among all parties over the terms of a new constitution.
The Maoists won just 80 of the 575 seats up for grabs in last month’s poll, well behind the centrist Nepali Congress party, which won 196, and the Unified Marxist-Leninists (UML), which got 175.
Twenty-six Maoists have already been directly elected to the assembly, but under the terms of Nepal’s hybrid electoral system the party can nominate a further 54 lawmakers.
A new government will nominate a further 26 members to join the 601-member assembly.
The Maoists — including rebel-leader-turned-politician Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda — have faced criticism over their apparent lavish lifestyles, a stark contrast to their revolutionary ideals.
After the polls last month, Prachanda demanded a halt to vote-counting and claimed fraud after results showed him losing his Kathmandu constituency, where he eventually came a distant third.
However, the Maoists on Tuesday 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 asked. “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, said: “This agreement has made us all very happy.”
“This is the first step toward drafting the constitution,” Paudel added.
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.
Lokraj Baral, executive chairman of the Kathmandu-based Nepal Center for Contemporary Studies, said the parties had to settle for “a compromise formula.”
“They have no other option — the Maoists have had to reconcile themselves to their electoral losses,” Baral said.
“At the same time, the Nepali Congress and UML have realized that if they draft the constitution without taking the Maoists on board, it will lead to very polarized politics,” he added.