Feuding political parties said on Monday they had agreed to split Nepal into eight federal provinces, ending years of stalemate over the new constitution intended to stabilise the country after civil war and the abolition of its monarchy.
The agreement came a month after deadly earthquakes shattered Nepal and analysts said politicians may have shown greater urgency to overcome the impasse following criticism of their response to the disaster.
Nepal has missed several deadlines to write a first post-monarchy constitution for the impoverished Himalayan nation of 28 million people.
At the heart of the dispute was a disagreement over the number of provinces, their internal boundaries and names based on ethnicity – as demanded by the country\’s Maoists, who waged a 10-year insurgency against the state until 2006.
"The government will set up a federal commission to fix internal boundaries of the states," four major political parties including the Maoists said in a statement.
The names of the states would be decided by a two-third majority of their respective assemblies, which would be elected after the constitution is prepared, they said.
But dozens of small parties rejected the deal saying boundaries and names of the states were too important to be left undecided. "This is a blow to federalism," said Hridayesh Tripathi, of the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party.
The new constitution was a condition of the peace deal with the Maoists, after a conflict that killed more than 17,000 people. The 239-year-old monarchy was abolished two years after the civil war ended.
Some analysts say the earthquake and its aftermath have led politicians, seen as selfish and out of touch with the plight of Nepal\’s poor, to show a greater sense of common purpose.
"Any more haggling over the constitution would further alienate politicians from the people who have lost everything in the earthquake," said Prakash Acharya, an editor with the Himalayan Times daily.
Two earthquakes on April 25 and May 12 killed at least 8,773 people and destroyed more than 500,000 homes, forcing millions of people to live without proper roof as the annual monsoon rains are due to begin next week.
Party officials said the agreement would be presented to a special Constituent Assembly which will include the agreed provisions in the draft of the new charter set to be promulgated by next month.
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala will resign after the new constitution comes into effect in July and the centre-left UML party, second biggest group in the ruling coalition, is expected to take power as agreed with Koirala last year.