Nepal's political parties reluctant to draft the constitution on time

L and G, Dec. 15, 2009

With the political scenario getting hazier and the ticking of the CA countdown getting lauder, senior leaders of the political parties are now telling it with full confidence that it is impossible to draft the new constitution within the given timeline, May 2010.


With that in mind, the leaders are now thinking of a new modus operandi to govern the country after the six months’ timeline expires. While the ruling coalition seems to be okay with either of the two alternatives at disposal -- imposing emergency or extending CA’s term -- the main opposition is for term extension, for obvious reasons.


A non-governmental proposal for term-extension has already made its way to the CA secretariat, which is likely to be passed as the Maoists have taken it positively. The other option, imposing emergency, has been intimidating the Maoists, who are warning it publicly that the ruling parties are plotting a “constitutional coup” though a presidential rule and state of emergency. Analysts say the Maoists, who are on their phase-wise protests for “civilian supremacy”, could make environment conducive for imposing emergency if they get violent in course of their protests.


There are some strong arguments forwarded in support of this speculation that the constitution won’t come on time. Based on what the leaders have been speaking so far, it is all clear that neither the ruling parties want to have the new constitution before completing army integration, nor the Maoists want to separate their armies with arms before they are assured about the future of their armies.


This has been a Catch 22 situation for all the political parties, as far as the constitution-making process is concerned.


The Maoists, who still command around 20,000 armed guerillas, are reluctant to ‘surrender’ unless there is a common understanding on the basic characteristics of the new federation. They have their own and equally serious reasons.


“It is a very complex situation for us,” says a senior Maoist leader. “Given the looming uncertainty about the new constitution, we cannot convince our combatants for a complete disarmament at least until there is a wider political understanding about their future,” said a Maoist leader.


NC Parliamentary Party leader Ram Chandra Poudel believes that given the complexities surrounding the army integration issue, chances of drafting the new constitution are almost nonexistent. On Friday, Poudel said it publicly in Syngja that it had been almost certain that the new constitution would not be drafted by May, 2010.


In the same line, NC General Secretary Bimelendra Nidhi maintains that given Maoist ‘rawaiwaa’ the new constitution would not be drafted on time. “We are yet to finalize the very basic things that set grounds for drafting of the new constitution,” says Nidhi.


“No party, except the Maoists, will agree to draft the constitution without sorting out the army integration issue, and nobody is going to waive a magic wand anytime soon to help us meet the six-month timeline,” said a senior NC leader. “It is only the fear of the people that is keeping the leaders from disclosing the bitter truth. It’s time we thought what’s next after six months.”


The ‘troubled’ Maoists, on the other hand, argue that it is the ruling parties, who find themselves at ease in Kathmandu, don’t want to draft the constitution on time and face the elections.


“The ruling parties have been deliberately delaying the statute-drafting process,” says UCPN (Maoist) Spokesman Dinanath Sharma. “They are just using the army integration issue as a pretext to delay the constitution-making process. It is not the Maoists, but the ruling parties who want to deliberately delay the army integration posting different bakheda.”


The Maoists reading is that the parties who have not been to villages for the last 20 years have lost their contact with the people … and their support base.


“Equally important factor behind the delay is that the NC and UML don’t want to draft the constitution with the Maoists in the lead. Keeping us off the center is the only thing they want,” says Sharma.  


While the Maoists are advocating for another high-level political agreement to settle the army integration issue, some NC leaders say it is redundant. “There is no need of any other agreement, the Maoist combatants can be managed through the special committee that we have,” says NC General Secretary Bimelendra Nidhi.


The only solution is to take both the processes -- constitution-making and army integration -- simultaneously, says Maoist PLA Commander Barsa Man Pun Ananta. “And that requires a new political agreement, which could declare the basic and core features of the new constitution and the fate of the combatants.”


Though the Maoists and some factions in the NC, esp close to President Girija Prasad Koirala, believe that the only way out is a high-level political mechanism, it has drawn flacks from within the ruling partners, which the Maoists interpret as the reaction of the forces that do not want the constitution in time.


For the time being, the parties at least seem to come to an agreement on term-extension. “There could be a political understanding on extending the term,” says Dinanath Sharma.


Term extension, says Nidhi, is one possibility.  






The Maoist sentiment that there should be a guarantee of new constitution is absurd, say NC leaders. The CA itself is a guarantee that could have been a good excuse, had there been no institutional vacuity, the Maoist sentimente would have been justifialble. The CA is active and it is doing its job.




There is no need of a new agreement, the CPA is enough

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