Amidst growing public conviction that the deadline will be missed, the CA amended its schedule on Tuesday for the tenth time, while reasserting the need for a timely constitution. With just 11 weeks left, the CA took a shortcut by pushing the deadline for the submission of the first draft of the constitution to 16 April, while retaining 28 May as the
A political mechanism comprising parliamentary party leaders from all parties will work towards finding common ground on a range of still contentious issues. The Constitutional Committee (CC) has not yet started its task of drafting the preliminary constitution as it has received only 2 of 11 draft reports. There are political issues to be resolved in the remaining 9 draft reports.
The leaders of all political parties attended Tuesday's meeting of the committee and agreed to resolve differences on genuine issues that have obstructed the constitution-writing process. It is yet to be seen if the promise will be kept. "We have no option but to believe them," said Kul Bahadur Gurung, NC CA member, who is also a committee member. "They have committed to completing the task in time. It is too early to predict the fate of the constitution."
Another committee member and Maoist CA member Hari Raj Limbu says if the political parties keep their commitment, Nepal will get a new constitution on time. "It is time for the political parties to show honesty towards the task assigned to them," he said. The entire process now depends on how they translate their commitment into action.
To start drafting the new constitution, there has to be agreement among political parties on fundamental issues
such as state restructuring, forms of governance, modality of federalism, constitutional bodies, state organs, and fundamental rights, among others. "The issues are where they were months ago," said constitution expert Bhimarjun Acharya. "The political parties should resolve their differences and help in drafting the constitution."
Acharya accused the political parties of knowingly delaying the constitution-writing process. "They have not exhibited the political will required to write the constitution on time," he said.
As the deadline draws nearer, some argue it's technically impossible to meet the deadline. The latest rescheduling of the CA calendar was an attempt to avoid a constitutional vacuum come May 28. But the CA will now have to skip certain constitutionally mandated steps of the writing process. Of 17, only six steps have been completed till date.
Crucial steps that remain include: discussing the first draft in a CA full session, taking the draft constitution to the public, interacting with experts on the draft, distributing it to CA members to study, and discussing each article and passing it by two thirds in the CA.
Acharya noted the thematic committees have already prepared the preliminary drafts and it won't take much time to compile and prepare a final draft of the constitution. "Political consensus is all we need," he said.
He also argued that if the parties agree on the fundamental issues, the country can adopt a concise constitution, though this does not mean an incomplete constitution. "We can discuss minor issues later but extending the tenure of the CA is a completely illegitimate move," he concluded.
If the deadline to submit the first draft of the constitution is missed this time around, this may be an inevitable consequence.
DESTINATION UNKNOWN - FROM ISSUE #493 (12 MARCH 2010 - 18 MARCH 2010)
Ticking away - FROM ISSUE #493 (12 MARCH 2010 - 18 MARCH 2010)
Constitution 2010, Nepali Times coverage of issues related to writing the new constitution