The 28th of May, 2008, was a momentous day for Nepal. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly (CA) declared Nepal a 'Federal Democratic Republic'. But much that followed that bold and historic declaration has been muddied not only by the ambitions of the political parties that make up the CA, but also the many contentious issues that have arisen in the last two years.
So what has actually been accomplished, and what does the CA have to deal with in the year's extension that it has been granted?
Two years of the CA have passed, during which the following tasks were completed:
* declaration of the republic
* election of a president and a vice-president
* formation of 14 committees (Constitutional Committee, 10 thematic committees and 3 administrative committees)
* first collation of public opinion on the new constitution
* preparation of preliminary drafts by the thematic committees
* proposal of a 14-province model by the State Restructuring and Power Sharing Committee
CA Chairperson Subhas Nembang claims '80 per cent' of constitution writing has been completed, and many other political leaders agree. But the reports of the thematic committees are like thesis papers that haven't yet been submitted for peer review. Contentious issues have not yet been discussed, only compiled and stored in lawmaker Agni Kharel's Report Study and Suggestions Committee. It may be the remaining 20 per cent that is the most difficult. The tasks that remain include:
* preparation of the preliminary constitutional draft by the Constitutional Committee
* receipt of 7 thematic committee reports by the Constitutional Committee (only three have been submitted so far)
* second collation of public opinion
* preparation of the constitution bill
* passing of each article of the constitution on the basis of consensus as far as possible, if not by a 2/3 majority of CA members
* signature by all CA members and verification by the CA Chairperson
Much of the delay in the submission of the thematic committee reports can be attributed to disputes related to:
* fundamental principles of the new constitution
* type of political system to be adopted
* basis of federal structures and province models
* structure of the judiciary and its independence
* management/integration of Maoist ex-combatants
* addressing concerns about ethnic and regional identity
Instead of forging ahead with the drafting process, the politicians continue to wrangle over who should succeed Madhav Kumar Nepal. Constitution writing is still not a priority, despite the last-minute extension of a fortnight ago. The song remains the same: integration first, or a national government?
According to NC central committee leader and CA member Man Mohan Bhattarai, we need to officially put an end to the 'gun-loving culture' by disbanding the parallel army of the Maoists. Only then, according to Bhattarai, can we embrace peace and give constitution writing some momentum. But Maoist politburo member Janardan Sharma insists that Madhav Kumar's resignation has to precede a timetable for concluding the peace process and forming a national consensus government. The clock is ticking once more.
Constitution 2010 - Nepali Times' coverage of the constitution writing process