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Nepal: Constitution Drafting Getting Delayed: Update No. 301

Note No. 726                                             Dated 08-Oct-2014

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

October 7th was the last and final deadline given by the Constitutional Assembly to the CPDCC (Constitution Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee) to come up with a final report on the thorniest issues still to be resolved in drafting the constitution.

Yet the committee has been unable to produce a report and it is said that there are still thirteen issues out thirty four still to be resolved.  The understanding was that if no consensus is reached, the CA will take to the “voting route.” Yet the two major parties, particularly the Nepali Congress is seen to be unwilling to take the plunge and is seen to be dilly dallying in taking a view on the issues which need to be settled. 

It looks almost certain that the new constitution will not be promulgated as promised by the political leadership by February 2015.

There is a view that even if the new constitution is delayed it will not matter so long as an acceptable draft is arrived at by a consensus of the political parties.  The Maoists are indirectly threatening that there will be chaos if no consensus is reached.

The problem is that “consensus” has proved to be very elusive and from what we have seen before is that  the parties seem to have their own agenda and are not seen to be keen in making a sincere effort to solve the issues.  Added to this is the pusillanimity of the government and more particularly the leadership in the Nepali Congress. 

Having sensed the indecision of Sushil Koirala in arriving at any firm decision, the Maoists are having a field day and putting more and more pressure on the government and it looks that they are hoping that the government would give in at some point.  This relates to the assembly proceedings being disrupted for more than a month and also the unreasonable demand of the Maoists that their chairman Dahal should  head the High level Political committee.  

The Chairman of the CPDCC Baburam Bhattarai was still harping on a consensus as late as 30th September though he himself knew that it will be an impossible task.  It is not clear as to why he is still talking of a consensus.

Bhattarai  in the same meeting conceded that “consensus had proved to be tough.”  He also admitted that the committee could not resolve major disputes which according to him was due to the “lackadaisical participation of the top leaders of political parties.”  What he failed to mention was that this own party and no one else is responsible for the delay. His idea of getting parties outside the assembly proved to be a disaster with Mohan Baidya demanding that all decisions regarding the constitutional drafting should be done through the round table conference!  Then why have an election and an interim constitutional assembly for drafting a new constitution?

On top of this Baburam Bhattarai has threatened to step down from the Dialogue committee (CPDCC) if the parties disregard the consensus while drafting a new constitution! He has tried and has obtained  many extensions for the committee. He has admitted that consensus is difficult.  Then in that case he should tell the CA formally that he has failed in his attempt.  This would help the CA to go through the majority route.  He is not willing to do that  and instead he is blaming the other political leaders except his for the delay and failure to come to a consensus.

The major issues that have continued to trouble the draft makers from the beginning has been on delineation of provinces, system of governance and electoral mode.

Bhattarai is said to have floated three models for the delineation of the provinces-

 1.  A ten-province model with two for Terai and eight in the hills with the parliament to decide their names.

 2.  A nine province model with Mithila -Bhojpur, Tharuwan Abadh , Limbuvan- Mechi, Kirat- Koshi, Tamsaling-Salung, Newa- Bagmathi, Tamuvan-Gandak, Magarat-Dhaulagiri and Karnali-Khaptad. 

3.  An Eight province model with two in Madhes, Kirat-Limbuvan, Tamsling- Salung, Newa-Bagmati, Tamuvan- Magarat-Gandaki, Karnali-Bheri and Mahakali. ( In caste majority areas there could be autonomous and special regions.

In forms of Governance, four models are being floated.

A. Directly elected President

B.  Directly elected Prime Minister with the constitutional President elected from the house.

C.  Directly elected President with House elected Prime Minister.

D.  President elected by an electoral college.

In the electoral model, there are three choices.

A.  Multi member direct proportional system

B.  Mixed proportional and first past the post system.

C.  Mixed member proportional system with representation of marginalised sections of the society.

There is no doubt that best way would be to get a minimum consensus and go ahead. But if the issues are intractable and only leads to further delay, the ruling parties should give a final deadline and go for voting instead of going for an “elusive consensus” indefinitely which will never be obtained. 

This is particularly so if the political stake holders are not sincere and are only keen to continue with the status quo.  

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