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Nepal Maoist lawmakers rough up finance minister

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KATMANDU, Nepal » Nepal’s caretaker government will force through the annual budget by ordinance after opposition Maoist lawmakers struck the finance minister and blocked him from presenting a budget bill to parliament.

An ordinance does not require parliamentary approval. Finance Minister Surendra Pandey said the Cabinet would take that step on Saturday "to avert an economic crisis in the country."

The dispute comes amid a long-running political stalemate in the Himalayan nation.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and his government resigned in June under pressure from the Maoists. Since then, parliament has tried repeatedly to elect a new prime minister but no party can muster enough support for the required simple majority.

Nepal and his Cabinet are running a caretaker administration, attending to little more than the most urgent functions of government. A budget was supposed to be approved by mid-July but the government has been unable to forge agreement on it. An interim budget expired earlier this week.

The Maoists and the two other main parties in parliament had agreed earlier this week to approve the new budget but the Maoists changed their minds on Friday.

Members from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) blocked Pandey, snatched his briefcase and hit him several times as he prepared to present the budget bill inside parliament late Friday. Another minister tried to help Pandey in the scuffle that caused no injuries but damaged furnishings and microphone equipment inside the House.

Pandey condemned the attack, but senior Maoist leader Narayankaji Shrestha was unapologetic, saying they were compelled to act as the government was trying to pass the budget by a process they disagreed with. He said it was just a minor scuffle.

Nepal’s political stalemate has set back progress on a peace process that in 2006 ended a decade-long insurgency by the Maoists that claimed thousands of lives. The Maoists are now in the political mainstream but the future of thousands of their ex-fighters whom they want to be enrolled into the national army is unresolved.

 

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