Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Unicameral legislature

The Interim Constitution Drafting Committee, which will present its draft constitution, is leaving unresolved political issues to the government and Maoist negotiating teams. The draft envisages a unicameral interim parliament but does not speak about its structure and number of members.

Committee Coordinator Laxman Prasad Aryal said final preparations were underway to hand over the draft Wednesday morning. [Note: The draft was not in fact delivered as planned.] "We are not in favour of extending the committee's tenure," he said. "We will present the draft with the issues already agreed upon."

The committee had repeatedly urged all sides to come to a common understanding regarding interim parliament, arms management and procedures for a constituent assembly. "No understanding has been reached on the big political issues, so we see no alternative but to present those issues for the negotiating teams to resolve," committee member Shambhu Thapa said. The draft to be presented by the committee will only include theoretical aspects of interim parliament, interim government and the constituent assembly process.

The proposed draft constitution provides for the king's status to remain as is until the people decide on it, through the constituent assembly. Though the preamble has not been finalised, the understanding is that it should enshrine loktantrik governance, sovereignty of the people, individual and human rights, and a new constitution formed on the basis of constituent assembly elections as mandated by the people's movement.

Many of the 16 committee members can't arrive at a consensus because the parliamentary parties and Maoists haven't yet agreed on many issues, and everyone is arguing for their own party and side. Committee sources say that there were long arguments over a Maoist proposal to enshrine a federal loktantrik republic in the preamble and about their demand that people's courts be recognised as equal to government courts.

Also undecided is who will promulgate the interim constitution. The draft allows extension of the interim constitution by six months if a new constitution is not ready within the stipulated one-year period. It states that the main responsibility of the Election Commission, which will have three commissioners, would be to hold constituent assembly elections. Similarly, to hear cases pertaining to election disputes, the draft constitution provides for a constitutional court comprising of three sitting justices of the Supreme Court. Though it has been agreed that judges at all levels should be re-appointed, the exact procedure has not been decided. A member explained the debate is over which organ should re-appoint the judges: the judicial council or the interim parliament.

Thapa said citizen's rights have been expanded in the draft, and that if the parties and Maoists had reached an agreement, a good draft that addressed key issues could have been finalised. "The constitution is a political document of compromise. If the political views are divided, then just writing a draft will not do," he said. Thapa feels that the inability [as of Wednesday] of the two sides to write a letter to the UN on arms management has affected the drafting committee as well.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)