There is less than a month left to draft the constitution. The political parties are not sure whether the tenure of the CA should be extended or if they can draft the constitution within the given time frame, while the debate persists on fundamental issues. The big three parties are clearly divided: NC and UML want to extend the CA by one year while the Maoists are totally against this. Instead of engaging in constitution writing, the Maoists have announced an indefinite general strike. Since the biggest political party in the CA is on the warpath, the constitution-writing process is uncertain.
It should be obvious to all by now that constitution will not be drafted by 28 May. According to NC leader Ram Sharan Mahat, there are three alternatives: draft the constitution by extending the CA, announce new elections or leave the country in a constitutional vacuum. Since there is no possibility of holding new elections, he says, extension of the CA after 28 May is the only way to avoid a constitutional vacuum.
Twenty-three months have passed but contentious constitutional issues remain unresolved. These are unlikely to be resolved in the next month, either. To proceed with the constitution-writing process, the CA should resolve the differences on constitutional issues first and then address other issues.
The CA should decide on the forms of the governance, the basis of federalism to address the concerns of different communities, and the integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants in the cantonments.
Unfortunately, the political parties have not been able to agree on what political system is best for Nepal. Britain and India follow a multiparty parliamentary system with an executive prime minister while America has an executive president. Israel has a directly elected executive prime minister and a ceremonial president. If we do not decide on this issue, constitution-writing cannot move forward.
Federal model is another issue to be resolved. The Interim Constitution proclaimed Nepal a federal republic state. The political parties also came up with different federal models during the elections, which have changed over time. Now, the entire country is divided on the issue of federalism. Some are in favour of ethnicity-based federalism while others have opposed the idea. The fear of communal conflict is getting stronger due to the issue of federalism.
Endorsing a new constitution alone will end the current political chaos. The concerns of the Maoists, parliamentary parties and ethnic communities should be addressed in the new constitution. On 9 November 2009, janajati CA members torched the draft concept paper on fundamental rights and directive principles in front of the south gate of the CA building, claiming their rights had not been addressed. This might be repeated in the future if grievances are not addressed. But there have not been any studies on the issues that need to be addressed in drafting such a constitution.
The issue of PLA fighters is another big challenge in moving ahead with peace and the constitution-writing process. There has not been any agreement on how and when the PLA fighters will be managed. The political parties have their own interpretations of the peace accord and weapons management, which have only polarised the issue, and even the numbers of combatants to be integrated in various security organisations has not been settled. Without this, neither the constitution nor the peace process can be brought to a conclusion.
Constitution 2010, Nepali Times coverage of issues related to writing the new constitution