Nepal sank into political turmoil today after lawmakers failed to agree on a new constitution, leaving the country with no legal government. The premier called new November elections, but critics said Baburam Bhattarai lacked the power to do so. Legal experts argue that any plans for new polling should be made in consultation with the country's three other main political parties. Although Katmandu was largely quiet due to a national holiday, security forces went on high alert, with riot police patrolling the streets after several political parties called for rallies to demand Bhattarai's resignation.
The squabbling parties in Nepal's Constituent Assembly had failed to agree on a new blueprint for the Himalayan nation by their own deadline of midnight Sunday, despite repeated extensions of the due date over the past four years. A key sticking point was whether the country's states should be drawn to give regional power bases to ethnic minorities. Writing the new constitution was supposed to cap an interim period aimed at solidifying details of Nepal's democracy after the country turned the page on centuries of royal rule and resolved a decade-long Maoist insurgency by bringing the former combatants into the political mainstream. (Read more Nepal stories.)