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Nepal reaches deal on new government

Months of political deadlock would end with the proposal to replace the current prime minister with Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi.

March 13, 2013|By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times
  • Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai , center right, and leaders of political parties celebrate after signing an agrement in Kathmandu, the capital. The prime minister is to step down, with the Supreme Court chief justice taking his place until an election is held.
Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai , center right, and leaders… (Prakash Mathema, AFP/Getty…)

NEW DELHI –- Ending months of political deadlock, Nepal's four major parties reached a deal in the capital, Katmandu, late Wednesday in which the prime minister would step down, the chief justice would take his place and an election would be held as early as June, according to local news reports.

As outlined, the 11-point agreement would be endorsed by the current Cabinet and presented to the president for approval, paving the way for Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to step aside as head of the Maoist party-led government and 63-year-old Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi to take over. Regmi has been chief justice since May 2011.

The new government is to hold an election of the Constituent Assembly on June 21 if possible or, alternately, by November. All Nepali citizens over the age of 18 will be eligible to vote.

Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha said the government would consist of 11 top former government officials.

Nepal has been mired in a political standoff since the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in May.

The country ended 10 years of civil war between the armed forces and Maoist rebels in 2006. But lawmakers since then have failed repeatedly to write a new constitution amid bitter disputes and a series of unstable coalition governments.

Among the most contentious issues has been whether former Maoist fighters can join the army and under what rank and conditions. The Maoists also have sought blanket amnesty for all those accused of committing human rights violations during the civil war and lobbied for a "truth and reconciliation commission" that has been opposed by main opposition parties.

But given Nepal's record and contentious political environment, the deal could still founder. In an early challenge, the Supreme Court, excluding Regmi, is scheduled to hear two cases filed by different lawyers challenging the decision to name the chief justice as the head of government.

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