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Nepal lawmakers approve new constitution

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Nepalese lawmakers clap as the parliament passes a new national constitution in the capital, Kathmandu, September 16, 2015. (AFP photo)

Nepal’s parliament has overwhelmingly passed a new constitution that has been delayed for years due to differences between political factions.

Speaker Subash Nemwang announced on Wednesday that the long-delayed charter was approved with 507 of the 598 lawmakers voting in favor.

The parliamentarians burst into applause and a loud cheer went up in the chamber after the announcement was made.

Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said in a message posted on Twitter the approval was a matter of national pride. 

"It is an issue of pride for all Nepalis that the people's constitution has been passed from the Constituent Assembly," the premier stated.

The new charter is due to come into force on September 20.

The vote comes in the wake of recent violent protests that have claimed the lives of over 40 demonstrators. A series of protests has continued to rock parts of the country, signaling that the new charter is not likely to allay concerns of the country’s many marginalized groups.

The new national constitution aims to restructure Nepal as a federal state made up of seven provinces, and draw a line under a decade-long civil war that ended in 2006.

The protesters argue that the new internal borders will discriminate against historically marginalized communities. The members of marginalized groups demand their own separate province. The groups include the Madhesi and Tharu ethnic minorities who mainly inhabit the country's southern plains.

Nepalese police arrest opposition supporters during a general strike against the draft of a new constitution, Kathmandu, Nepal, August 16, 2015. (AFP photo)

 

In early June, Nepal’s major rival political parties, spurred on by a devastating earthquake, reached a historic agreement to end years of deadlock on the new constitution for the country. Four parties – two ruling and two opposition – inked a historic deal, including on a settlement over the issue of federalism, which was the main bone of contention among political parties.

Regional parties have long pushed for new provinces to be created along lines that could favor historically marginalized communities. Other parties saw the demand as divisive and threatening the national unity.


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