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Constitution deal inked

Monday, June 8th, 2015




Om Astha Rai

The four major political parties inked a historic 16-point deal late Monday night, paving the way for the Constituent Assembly (CA) to write Nepal’s new constitution nine years after the end of the conflict.

Fringe political parties in the Maoist-led 30-member alliance have opposed the deal but that is unlikely to deter the CA from passing the new constitution.

After years of bickering over models of federalism, governance, judiciary and elections, the ruling NC-UML coalition and the opposition Maoist-Madhesi alliance were shaken to make compromises after the earthquake.

However, the real reason for the hurry in striking a deal seems to be UML Chair K P Oli’s impatience to become prime minister. Under a deal with the NC, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala would step down once the constitution was written and hand over power to the UML.

The breakthrough happened after Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal backed Oli’s ambition in return for an agreement to form a national unity government that would also include Maoist and Madhesi parties.

The ruling NC-UML agreed on an eight-province model of federalism, as proposed by the Maoist-Madhesi parties, giving up their demand for a six-province federalism. In return the Maoist-Madhesis agreed on the NC-UML’s proposal that names and boundaries of federal units will be determined by future provincial councils and the proposed State Restructuring Commission (SRC) respectively. They had earlier wanted ethnicity-based names for conclaves whose borders would be pre-determined.

Fringe parties, which had formed an alliance with the UCPN (M) in the past to exert pressure on the NC-UML to accept identity as a basis to carve out federal units, are against the deal. They say passing the new constitution without naming federal units and demarcating their geographical boundaries will not ensure rights of marginalised communities. However, they do not have numerical strength in the CA to prevent the NC-UML and the Maoist-Madhesi from passing the new constitution.

The Maoists-Madhesi parties have not accepted the NC-UML’s proposal on system of governance, which is a continuity of executive Prime Minister and ceremonial President. The Maoists were in favour of an executive President, but they have agreed to pass the new constitution by writing a note of dissent.

Major parties have also agreed that the lower house will have 275 members and 60 per cent of them will be directly elected. Similarly, the upper house will have 45 members and they all will be nominated. They have also agreed to include a threshold of three percent, which will not allow parties unable to secure at least three per cent of the total votes to be in the parliament.

As for model of judiciary, major parties have agreed to set up a constitutional court which will be the apex authority to sort out disputes between federal units. The existing model of judiciary will remain the same, though.

Monday’s deal is the most important landmark in Nepal’s political history after the signing of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006. In little less than a decade after the peace accord, two CAs were elected but the deal on the contents of the new constitution always eluded Nepal.

After the 25 April earthquake, major parties expedited political negotiations and reached a deal, which Nepal desperately awaited for more than seven years. Although the earthquake was the catalyst to reach a deal, political analysts believe that they were motivated to do so to form an all-party government.


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5 Responses to “Constitution deal inked”

  1. Tejeshwi Bhattarai on Says:

    “Similarly, the upper house will have 45 members and they all will be nominated.”

    Just want a little clarification here. According to the 16-point deal, in the 45 member upper house, 40 are to be elected through state legislatures in equal numbers for each state. That is to say, out of the 8 states to be created, 5 each will be elected by the members of the state legislatures. That makes 40 “elected” (although through indirect election) members in the upper house of the parliament. Only the remaining 5 are to be nominated by the President. If I’m not wrong, I think you can’t say that all of the 45 members will be “nominated”. Just bringing into light some technicalities involved.

  2. Raghu on Says:

    The signed papers say otherwise, 5 identity based and 4 based on economic viability

  3. Arsenal on Says:

    I will shave my head the day it happens

  4. Tejeshwi N Bhattarai on Says:

    identity-based and economic viability are the bases for federalizing the state! Its not 4/4 states along those two lines!

  5. John M. Kelleher on Says:

    So after 7 years, this “breakthrough” essentially consists of the major party leaders agreeing to disagree by deferring the more substantive details of federalism until later. How surprising. That said, can we assume that any new constitution resulting from this half-baked agreement will be submitted to a referendum for public approval? Or is this latest x-point cartel settlement supposed to be a satisfactory expression of the popular will?

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