20-26 March 2015 #750

A temporary constitution

Why not just cut and paste the Interim Constitution and get it over with?
Damakant Jayshi
Given the inability (or unwillingness) of the main political players to resolve the dispute over federalism, it would be prudent to look for alternatives.

At the time of going to press, the stumbling blocks were still the five disputed districts, and power-sharing after the constitution. They have given themselves another deadline of  Republic Day on 29 May as the new C-Day.

The 30-party opposition alliance (many of which are not represented in the Constituent Assembly) has said it will and protest on the streets simultaneously. The ruling parties’ response: We will talk and take the process forward for a vote in the CA simultaneously.

It is still likely that the parties would be able to strike a deal on their electoral future regarding the districts of Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Kailali and Kanchanpur. But ironically, the real obstacles to talks seemed to be dividing up important constitutional posts among themselves. Trust their ability to give the impression that this quest for raw power is actually about the lofty goals of inclusiveness, identity, equality and Nepal’s integrity and sovereignty. And identity is just a code word for the dreaded ethnicity-based state restructuring.

The parties are mentally poles apart, so they may very well fail to reach a deal. It seems both our northern and southern neighbours are having doubts about federalism and fear that it may lead to more instability in Nepal.

Then there are politicians who are passing remarks like, “What’s the haste? This CA still has three more years.” With the most obvious exception of the ailing prime ministerial aspirant KP Oli of the UML, almost everyone else would be perfectly happy if the current stalemate dragged on.

NC president and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala thinks it would let him stay in Baluwatar for some more time. Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is positioning himself to unseat Koirala as party president and subsequently as PM, needs more time to get his act together ahead of the party’s General Convention in September. Right now Deuba is hoping for a public backlash against Koirala for his failure to deliver on the statute. 

Even Oli’s comrades in the UML are in no particular hurry to pass a constitution, they are too busy trying to undermine him and secretly hope that his gamble on CA vote will fail.

The UCPN (M) and their Madhesi allies are planning to cash in on any rift between the NC and UML that may be the result of delays in the constitution. With numbers in the CA stacked heavily against them, the opposition alliance will keep on chanting their mantra of consensus.

The least painful alternative would be to accept the Interim Constitution of 2007 as a permanent one to provide closure to the transition period. Of course, the hard work begins soon after ensuring true decentralisation decision-making process, promoting inclusive policies, ensuring local bodies elections for service delivery and working on governance. The debate on federalism can continue in a less charged atmosphere.

The Interim Constitution could continue until the parties are able to discard their petty interests and work sincerely towards a new statute. After all, the 2007 document is the only one that has been accepted by most pro-change parties, including by default even the breakaway factions from the UCPN (M).

This would end the ‘business as usual’ attitude, end the prolonged transition during which the government is unaccountable and incapable of its primary duties. Moreover, the Interim Constitution has institutionalised concepts like republicanism, secularism and federalism. And lastly, the real beauty of the interim statute is that it bestows the rights of transfer of citizenship to women as well, unlike the current draft which has a conservative and regressive proposal that bars citizenship in the name of the mother.


Read also:

Delete interim, Editorial

The Consensus Race, Foreign Hand

Stuck in mud, Editorial

Go for plan C, Damakant Jayshi

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