Nepal's Constituent Assembly overwhelmingly approved a new national constitution on Wednesday that had been delayed for years because of differences between the main political parties.
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Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, right, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist), also known as CPN-UML leader K.P. Oli, center, and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, left, shake hands after the final constitution process at Constitution Assembly hall in Kathmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015. Nepal's Constituent Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that has been delayed for years because of differences between political parties. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)[/caption]
Speaker Subash Nemwang announced the charter was passed by a 507-25 vote in the 601-seat assembly. The voting was boycotted by smaller opposition parties which make up 9 percent of the assembly.
Assembly members burst into applause and raised their hands in celebration after the announcement was made.
The constitution, which will be formally promulgated by President Ram Baran Yadav on Sunday, was pushed through the assembly this week despite protests by ethnic minority groups.
It will split Nepal into seven federal provinces. Some ethnic groups disagree with the makeup, borders and size of the provinces.
There have been weeks of protests against the draft in southern Nepal, some of which have turned violent. More than 40 people were killed in clashes between protesters and security forces, and authorities imposed curfews in several southern towns.
Members of the assembly had voted on portions of the draft constitution since Sunday, and the final vote on the full document was held late Wednesday.
The constitution has been delayed by years of disagreements among the main political parties, and its approval is regarded as a major achievement for them. The three main parties finally reached agreement this year, enabling the process to move on.
In celebration, the government declared public holidays on Sunday and Monday and urged the public to welcome the new constitution.
Nepal has had an interim constitution since pro-democracy protests forced then-King Gyanendra to give up his authoritarian rule and turn the country into a republic. A Constituent Assembly elected in 2008 failed to draft a new charter, and another assembly was elected in 2013.