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Koirala death deals new blow to fragile Nepal government

Former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's death could undermine the fragile Nepal government, which has until May 28 to write a new constitution. Mr. Koirala loomed large in Nepal's transition from monarchy to republic after a long civil war with Maoists.

Nepal's Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala attends the concluding ceremony of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Colombo in this August 3, 2008 file photo. Koirala passed away on Saturday.

Buddhika Weerasinghe/Reuters/FILE

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Amid the unhurried daily schedule of its prime minister – inaugurations, speeches, and the like – it wouldn’t appear Nepal is struggling to lay a solid foundation for peace, restructure its state, and write a constitution.

But the tiny Himalayan nation wedged between China and India has only until May 28 to conclude these mammoth tasks. And progress has been scant since a special assembly was elected in April 2008, analysts say, the result of a political logjam between Maoists and rival parties that has overshadowed larger goals of concluding the peace process and holding a general election.

At the source of Nepal’s political inertia are disgruntled Maoists. Led by former rebel chief and former Prime Minister Prachanda, the Maoists, who fought a deadly civil war with the government that ended in 2006, left the government last year after a dispute over firing the country's Army chief, and have subsequently paralyzed the government with strikes and blockades.

The death this weekend of former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, a key player in helping Nepal shift from a monarchy to a republic and the only political leader with the political capital to resolve differences, has added complications, raising concerns about a rightist resurgence that could further undermine a fragile peace process and throw Nepal into a new crisis, analysts say. If the May 28 deadline is not met, the elected assembly that doubles as a parliament, and the government it elected, could collapse.

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