Initially, the Constituent Assembly (CA) and political parties did not seem serious about collecting public feedback on the draft constitution. They probably saw it just as a formality. That was why only two days were allotted for this enormous task. But the enthusiasm with which people turned out to register their views on the draft was beyond political parties’ expectations. Now, the onus lies on the CA and the political parties to honour views expressed by the majority of the people by including them in the new constitution.
Due to obstacles created by some parties dissatisfied with the constitution writing process, collecting public feedback was not satisfactory in some parts of the Madhes. But where there were no obstacles people turned out in huge numbers, giving credence to the process and raising hope for the new constitution. People also expressed views against some of the points of the 16-point deal, which is the blueprint of the draft constitution. For example, the signatories to the 16-point deal rejected the idea of directly-elected President or Prime Minister. But a majority of people supported it.
The people defied threats of violence to exercise their franchise and elect a new CA two years ago. The political alertness which they showed this week by expressing their views on the draft is a message: they are not tired of the process and are desperate to see the new constitution.
Each and everyone’s view cannot be incorporated into the new constitution. But the CA must try to include the most persistent ones so that people will own the constitution. Suggestions collected by the previous CA were abandoned.
The current CA should not repeat that mistake. Ignoring or undervaluing public feedback will be a blunder. The CA’s Public Consultation Committee should incorporate all suggestions in its report to be submitted to the CA’s Constitutional, Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) which should include all valid suggestions. Incorporating public feedback in the draft will also be an opportunity to win the trust of disgruntled parties and involving them in this historic process. The more political parties endorse the constitution, the longer it will last.