10-16 October 2014 #727

Agreeing to agree

Editorial, Kantipur, 9 October

Wednesday’s five-point consensus – to form a high level political committee to be chaired on rotation – between the three largest parties ended the UCPN(M)’s 41-day blockade of the Constituent Assembly but parties are back to square one as far as constitution writing is concerned.

Senior leaders have repeatedly stressed upon consensus and signed documents about agreeing to agree, but there are doubts to whether they can put this into practice. People are worried that this CA will also be disbanded before a constitution is written.

It has been years that the same parties have been trying to solve the same contentious issues: federalism, form of governance, election process, and jurisdiction. The first CA failed because they couldn’t agree on these, and the parties are nowhere close to a solution 11 months after elections to the second CA was held.

In the meantime, they have attended dozens of meetings in the name of consensus but none of these had significant results. When there is agreement, it is because a few leaders or parties successfully hold others hostage. As long as these leaders, in whose clutches Nepal’s politics is trapped, do not rise above internal battles and power-politics, we will not see a constitution written before the 22 January deadline.

Because Nepal’s current politics is based on the second Jana Andolan in 2006, it is absolutely vital that there be cooperation and consensus between the biggest political powers. But chanting ‘consensus’ and delaying progress every time they fail to see eye to eye is not wise any more.

The Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee failed to bring out consensus on any contentious issue and recommended the CA to decide on it. This can only mean the CA will extend its deadline to discuss the PDCC’s report. Extending deadlines makes sense if consensus is guaranteed. But it would be disastrous if the top leadership used this excuse to keep disrupting the constitution writing process.

Also, we only have 13 weeks to the constitution deadline. But judging by the parties’ halfhearted attempts at solving contentious issues, we have reason to fear that this deadline won’t be met. Before such a crisis becomes inevitable, it is crucial that the main parties, and especially the senior leadership, forget their short-term gains to write a constitution and ease this country out of transition.

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