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Nepal steps towards democracy

  • Story Highlights
  • Seven parties in Nepal's governing coalition agreed to amend constitution
  • Spokesman: Amendment will say Nepal "will be a federal democratic republic"
  • Agreement with the former Maoist rebels ends months of political deadlock
  • More 13,000 killed in the 10 years of fighting between the state and rebels
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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- Nepal's governing coalition on Sunday moved away from its long-standing monarchy toward a republic, but the change will be implemented only after general elections slated to be held by next spring.

Nepali Congress Party member Arjun Narsingh KC, center, at a public party rally in 2006.

"The seven parties, including the Maoists, agreed to amend the constitution to include the phrase that Nepal 'will be a federal democratic republic," Arjun Narsingh KC, a spokesman for the Nepali Congress Party which heads the government, said in a telephone interview.

The agreement calls for the republic to be implemented only after the first meeting of the constituent assembly, KC said.

Nepalis are slated to vote for the constituent assembly, thereby ending the 240-year-old monarchy and preparing the ground for a new constitution.

Sunday's agreement with the former Maoist rebels ends months of political deadlock that had stalled the peace process.

Elections had been twice postponed. The second time, slated for November 22, was delayed after the former Maoist rebels pulled out of the government demanding that Nepal be declared a republic and the electoral system be changed to one of full proportional representation.

The communist rebels had joined the government in April after signing a peace deal in November 2007.

More than 13,000 people were killed in the 10 years of fighting in the country between the state and the communist rebels.

According to the agreement reached late Sunday, the Maoists have committed to join the government but have not said precisely when they will do so, KC said.

The former rebels had maintained that the monarchy would scuttle the elections to decide its future and said proportional representation would guarantee a voice for various disgruntled ethnic and regional groups in the country.

Under Sunday's agreement, 58 percent of the 601 members of the assembly will be elected through proportional representation and 42 percent through a single-winner voting system among the candidates.

This means 335 members of the assembly will be elected through proportional representation, another 240 through the single-winner voting system and 26 will be nominated by the cabinet.

Earlier it had been 50 percent through the single-winner voting system sometimes referred to as first-past-the-post and 50 percent through proportional representation in what was then a 497-member constituent assembly. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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