Nepal's government wants the repeatedly extended Constituent Assembly to get yet another three months to finish writing the Himalayan nation's constitution, and even members of the ruling parties are crying foul.
The government's proposal goes against the Supreme Court's ruling prohibiting any more extensions of the assembly, which was elected in 2008 with a two-year tenure and has been renewed four times. The current tenure ends Sunday.
Law Minister Krishna Sitaula said Wednesday that a proposal to extend the assembly's tenure was registered in the assembly Tuesday night after an emergency meeting of the Cabinet.
"We filed the proposal to avert a major crisis in the country. We only have a few days left, and if there is no constitution and the assembly expires, there will be chaos in the country," Sitaula said.
The decision has been widely criticized by the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the country's second- and third-largest political parties. Both joined the Maoist-led government earlier this month.
Madhav Kumar Nepal, a top leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), demanded Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai resign.
"The prime minister took such a major decision without even consulting with his main coalition partners. He has now lost our trust and no longer deserves to be in office," Nepal said.
Speaker of Parliament Subash Nemwang said he too was surprised by the government's action.
"We have no other choice but to promulgate the new constitution by the deadline," Nemwang said, adding that he was conferring with his legal aides on the issue.
The Supreme court ruled in December that there cannot be any more extensions of the assembly, declaring that a fresh election would have to be conducted after the deadline expires Sunday.
A new constitution is a key part of the peace process that began in 2006 after Maoist rebels gave up their armed revolt.