Nepal's Maoists agree to join assembly, ending impasse

Nepal's Maoists agree to join assembly, ending impasse
File photo of Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as 'Prachanda', waves to supporters during an election campaign rally in Kathmandu.

KATHMANDU - Nepal's Maoists have agreed to join the country's constituent assembly, ending a weeks-long impasse after they initially rejected the result of last month's elections, a senior party leader said Tuesday.

"We have agreed to join the assembly and help draft a constitution" after other parties agreed to investigate alleged poll-rigging, senior Maoist official Narayan Kaji Shrestha told AFP.

The Maoists, who were routed at the polls, threw the country into turmoil when they denounced alleged cheating in the November 19 elections, which were seen as key to completing a peace process after a 10-year civil war.

Millions of Nepalis voted at the elections, hoping to instal a constituent assembly that would write a constitution and end years of political instability in the impoverished Himalayan nation.

The Maoists, who dominated post-war elections in 2008, won just 80 out of 575 seats and came a distant third behind the Nepali Congress and Unified Marxist-Leninist parties.

Maoist rebel-turned-politician Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, demanded a halt to vote-counting and called for an investigation into alleged election fraud.

But Shrestha said the Maoists would formally sign an agreement with the other parties on Tuesday afternoon to join the assembly.

"We will draft the constitution within one year," he said.

The Maoists fought a "People's War" until a peace deal in 2006 that ended royal rule and transformed Nepal into a secular republic.

Since then a series of coalition governments have squabbled and failed to write a constitution, forcing the collapse of the first constituent assembly in May 2012.

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