Nepal's oldest political party has emerged as the biggest group after an election last week, a final count showed on Thursday, and the party is now trying to woo Maoist former rebels to join a national unity government in the volatile mountain nation.
The result leaves an uncertain future for the Maoists, who fought a ten-year civil war that contributed to the downfall of Nepal's monarchy. Since laying down arms they have been key players in the establishment of the new republic.
The former guerrillas, slumping to third place in the election held to a new constituent assembly, initially said it was rigged and threatened to boycott the body. But they have since signaled a willingness to compromise.
“We want to form a consensus government and are reaching out to the Maoists to join the government and draft the constitution,” Minendra Rijal, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress party which emerged as the largest group in the 601-member assembly, said.
Nepal sandwiched between India and China has been running under an interim constitution since the 2008 abolition of the centuries-old monarchy and the prolonged political deadlock has crippled the economy, forcing thousands to seek work abroad.
A previous attempt at writing a constitution failed with political parties unable to agree on the form of government as well as the federal structure of the ethnically diverse nation.
The new assembly will also function as a parliament and establish a government that will run the country until the charter is ready and elections are held.
Rijal said the Nepali Congress, the party that wielded power the longest during the days of constitutional monarchy, is prepared to lead the new government. He said party chief Sushil Koirala had met his Maoist counterpart Prachanda asking him to join the government.
The Maoists are demanding that the new assembly take decisions on the charter on the basis of consensus rather than a brute majority.
The former rebels fear that the Nepali Congress and a moderate communist party that emerged as the second largest group could unite against it to water down their vision of a federal and secular republic.