Nepal PM reaches out to ethnic parties after they withdraw support

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 16, 2017 2:39 AM

By Gopal Sharma

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal's ruling Maoists on Thursday offered to hold talks with minority ethnic parties that withdrew support for the coalition because of long-standing differences over a new constitution.

The minority Madhesi in the southern plains say that the new charter consolidates the power of the country's hill elite and marginalizes them in the way new states will be created in a federal structure.

Nepal has been struggling to establish a stable republic following the abolishment of a 239-year-old Hindu monarchy in 2008 and is set to hold local polls in May that will be followed by national elections under the charter adopted in 2015.

But seven Madhesi parties issued a statement late on Wednesday saying they were cutting off support for Prime Minister Prachanda's government for failing to amend the constitution to reflect their grievances and vowed to disrupt the elections.

Govinda Acharya, an aide to Prachanda, said the former Maoist rebel commander was ready to meet Madhesi leaders to bring them on board but would not cancel the polls.

"There is no chance of calling off the polls. The prime minister is firm on this," Acharya said. The government remains in majority in parliament despite loss of support.

The elections for village assemblies and city municipalities are scheduled for May 14, the first such poll in 20 years.

Hridayesh Tripathi, of the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP), campaigning against the constitution, warned of trouble in the plains where more than half of Nepal's 28.6 million people live if the polls went ahead without amending the constitution.

Five people were killed last week when police opened fire to break up protests against the constitution in the Tarai.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie)