KATHMANDU (AFP) - Nepal’s Maoist-led government on Tuesday called polls to elect a new parliament in April or May, offering hope for an end to the political deadlock that has crippled the deeply-divided nation.
Elections had originally been scheduled for this week but legal problems, and the failure of the main political parties to agree on how and when it should take place, had led to the plan being dropped.
“The government today decided to conduct Constituent Assembly elections between mid-April and mid-May 2013. We will fix the exact date after consultation with the parties,” information minister Rajkishore Yadav told AFP.
Nepal has been run by a caretaker Maoist-led government since the collapse in May of an interim assembly that had failed in its main task — drawing up a new constitution following a 10-year civil war that ended in 2006.
Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai had set polls for November. But the election commission insisted that the lack of a workable constitution meant there were no legal provisions for holding a vote.
“The government wanted to conduct elections in November 22 but it was not possible because of the special circumstance,” said Yadav.
“It requires political consensus to conduct elections, hence the government will now start serious dialogue with parties and fix a date for the polls.”
Yadav said the Maoists were confident that the delayed annual budget would now be approved by the president.
Nepal has been surviving on a four-month emergency budget since the government failed to get its budget for 2012-2013 rubber-stamped by President Ram Baran Yadav in July.
The funds ran out last week, leaving 500,000 teachers, police, soldiers and other public-sector workers facing the prospect of missing out on their pay packets in mid-December.
The president has pushed for all-party support for the budget but opposition politicians have said they will not support it without the resignation of Prime Minister Bhattarai.
An alliance of 18 opposition parties released a statement on Tuesday, saying they would continue to block the budget.
“If the current coalition government is allowed to present the budget, it will help the government become authoritarian,” they said in a statement.
“We have put forward the notion of bringing out the full budget through a national unity government, which in turn will ensure the constitution can be written.”