Five months after forging an alliance to select the CA chair, the ruling Maoist and UML parties joined forces again to elect Maoist member Purna Kumari Subedi as vice-chair on 28 November.
The main opposition NC appeared disinterested in vying for the post as it knew about the existence of the alliance. It neither gave candidacy nor openly supported any candidate of other parties.
This continuing alliance between the Maoists and UML may be positive from the point of view of running the government but it has weakened the chances of the politics of consensus in the process of constitution writing. One of the NC central committee members, Ram Sharan Mahat, says, "If they continue this practice when forming the committees, they will be heading the majority of the committees. This will not help the constitution writing process."
The CA Rules of Procedure provide for 14 committees (see box). According to the 82 week schedule, the committees should be decided by 15 December. This deadline is not likely to be met. UML leader Surendra Pandey says: "Nothing has been done, the process will begin only after the parties select the names to lead the committees."
There is some sign of movement. NC chief whip Laxman Ghimire says his party has started selecting members for the committees: "We will discuss with the leaders of other parties before going to the CA chair."
Maoist chief whip Dinanath Sharma thinks the deadline can be met.
But other members are not convinced that there will be a timely decision on the committee leadership. The CA Rules of Procedure took six months to be finalised, so assembling 14 committees within two weeks seems unrealistic.
There has also been debate about how big the committees should be. Drafting committee member Agni Kharel says the parties initially agreed to form a 15-member main constitution drafting committee, but numbers swelled to 61 to include representatives of all political parties. Since the jumbo committee could face practical difficulties, the provision of sub -committees was made to prepare the first draft which will then be submitted to the constitutional committee to finalise.
Since the constitutional committee is the most powerful all the big parties have informally bid for the chair. Sharma claims the constitution writing process would be much easier if his party headed the constitutional committee but the main opposition NC, which has claimed five out of the 14 committee chairs, is also firmly laying claim to the chair of the constitutional committee.
Each subject committee and procedural committee is made up of 43 members including representatives from groups such as women, Madhesi, Janajatis, Dalits, remote regions and marginalised communities.
One member cannot be a member of another committee. Chure Bhawar Rastriya Ekata Party, Nepal Democratic Socialist Party, Nepa: National Party, Pariwar Party, Dalit Janajati Party and Social Democratic Party have only one member each in the CA and therefore they will be represented in the constitutional committee only and not the sub-committees. There are five other parties which have two CA members so they will have representatives in two committees.
Only six parties will be represented in all 14 committees: TMLP, MJF, UML, NC and the Maoists. Other parties do not have enough members but everyone will be able to participate in the debate and put forward their ideas when draft documents are presented in a full CA session. The CA chair will require the approval of the assembly before finalising the selection.
The main obstacle now is the internal conflict within the Maoists and ever widening rift between the Maoists and the NC. The process of constitution writing will not gather momentum as long as this situation persists.
2. State Restructuring and Resource Allocation
3. Fundamental Right and Directive Principle
4. Minorities and Marginalised Communities Rights Protection
5. Legislative Organs Delineation
6. State Rules Delineation
8. Constitutional Body Delineation
9. Natural Resource, Economic Rights and Revenue Allocation
10. Cultural and Social Solidarity Delineation
11. National Interests Protection
12. Civil Relationship
13. Public Opinion Collection and Coordination
14. Capacity Enhancement and Resource Management
"The constitution can be completed on time."
Interview with Purna Kumari Subedi, the newly elected vice chair of the CA.
Now that you have been elected as vice chair, how do you feel?
I am proud to have won and I take this as an opportunity. This is not only my victory, but also a victory for all who are for peace, change and justice and are dedicated to writing the new constitution.
What will the priorities be when you draft the new constitution?
We have to pay special attention to lifting the status of disenfranchised ethnic groups, regional groups and women. I will work to encourage the participation of women in every sphere of the state and include constitutional measures to end domestic violence. In addition, it is important for women to be independent.
You are also a member of the ruling party. How do you plan to convince your opponents?
I will perform my work with sincerity and impartiality. I believe that everyone will contribute to the process of drafting the new constitution.
What will hinder the completion of the constitution on the stipulated date?
I feel that all the CA members have the common goal of writing a progressive constitution. If all members realise their responsibility, then the constitution can be completed on time.