24-30 January 2014 #691

Try, try again

Editorials in three mainstream Nepali dailies about the new Constituent Assembly

Kantipur, 22 January

More than 80 per cent of the members in the new CA are newly elected, and this has given the assembly new energy. However, the political parties that govern them are the same. Hence, the parties should learn a lesson or two from the past and not make the same mistakes again. This time, they can’t use any excuse to delay the writing of a new constitution. Their commitment to write a new constitution within a year should not be consigned to just being a slogan.

There has been a fundamental shift in the composition of the new CA, however it is still dominated by the three main parties: NC, UML and the Maoists. Therefore, it should be difficult to continue with the existing work on the constitution. However, the RPP-N has emerged as a new party and its views have to be taken into account to work on the basis of a two-thirds majority.

Even though the fist CA was unsuccessful, it had some positive accomplishments which need to be built upon. The issues that were agreed upon can form the basis of its work, and there has been enough debate on issues like federalism, state structure and other issues. The new CA has the opportunity to learn lessons from that debate and incorporate views based on the new mandate after the elections to come up with a long-term document.

If they fail again, they must know that the voters will not forgive them and reactionary powers can stage a comeback.

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Annapurna Post, 22 January

Nepal has the dubious distinction of being the only country in world history that has conducted two elections to form a Constituent Assembly. The House is meeting two months after the election results were announced. The first as its first epoch-making decision voted to turn the country into a republic, but that CA itself was unfortunately dissolved. This time, there wasn’t even an agenda for the first day of the CA meeting on Wednesday.

Despite all this, the pronouncements of the new members have been positive, and the political parties can also learn a lot from the experience of the past. They have also got a message from enthusiastic voters to work for peace, constitution and progress. They have a lot of doubts about whether these will be fulfilled because of past behavior. The public is now aware and alert, they can’t be fooled all the time anymore.

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Nagarik, 22 January

Although the CA that is meeting two months and four days after the election results has tenure of four years, it is supposed to finish writing the constitution in a year. After the first year the CA will serve as a parliament. There are plenty of reasons to doubt whether the CA will be successful in finishing the constitution in one year, but if they fail again the people will not forgive them. And if the elected members can’t write a democratic constitution, we can’t dismiss the possibility of the rise of dictatorship. The main obstacle to a democratic constitution is the disagreement over the kind of federalism. The reality is that no one part of the country is dominated by any one ethnic group or caste. This is why there is no basis for carving the country up along ethnic lines. While demarcating federal units, let’s not let that be the basis for future conflict. The other two obstacles are state structure and election process. The Proportional Representation provision, though well-intentioned has been misused in this CA, and in future could be used by autocratic leaders. There are good and bad example of parliamentary and presidential systems around the world. The members have to decide what is best for Nepal and under Nepali conditions.  

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