Constitution move pushes Nepal deeper into political turmoil

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal's ruling coalition on Sunday took a step toward drafting a new constitution, angering the opposition and pushing the Himalayan country further into political turmoil.

Opposition members in the Constituent Assembly protested noisily behind rows of security personnel in parliament as Speaker Subash Nemwang ignored them and announced a proposal committee would proceed with voting on the constitution.

The committee is backed by the governing parties' overwhelming majority, but the opposition parties are demanding the draft of the constitution be prepared by consensus.

Earlier attempts to announce the committee were blocked by protests, including one Tuesday in which opposition assembly members broke chairs and desks and threw microphones and shoes at the speaker.

The opposition parties reacted immediately to Sunday's announcement, vowing street protests against the speaker and the government. A general strike last week shut down businesses and schools and several vehicles were torched.

"The speaker and the ruling coalition have just pushed the country into a new conflict. We will go back to the people and protest," said Pushpa Kamal Dahal of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal Maoist, who is leading the opposition alliance.

The committee announced by Nemwang would list the number of issues with disagreements and then vote in the assembly to decide.

The ruling coalition makes up more than two-thirds of the 605-member Constituent Assembly and could easily get their own proposals approved.

A constitution was supposed to have been written by the Constituent Assembly that was elected in 2008 following the end of a 10-year Maoist insurgency and the overthrow of the centuries-old monarchy. But the assembly was riven by infighting and never finished its work. The current assembly was chosen in 2013, but has faced the same problem.

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