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Making Or Breaking A New Constitution

issue 01, January 01, 2012

Siddhi B Ranjitkar

Nepal has reached a critical point of making or breaking a new constitution after the ruling of the Supreme Court of Nepal on extending the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) on November 25, 2011 stating the term of the Constituent Assembly could be extended for the last time for the maximum of six months thereafter the Constituent Assembly will be automatically dissolved. Then, the Supreme Court has refused to register the appeal made by the Speaker of parliament and the prime minister separately on December 27, 2011 for reviewing the ruling on extending the term of the CA. So, the CA should either complete the writing of a new constitution and promulgate it within May 30, 2012 or face its automatic demise. However, political leaders seem to be not concerned with it very much in view of their activities and often they have been blocking the parliament for issues of murder of one political cadre or another and not working smoothly for resolving the disputed areas of a new constitution.

The question is what would happen to the nation if the CA dies without completing its mission of writing a new constitution and promulgating it. The extreme left group that has been advocating for the revolt of the people would have reasons for launching it. Similarly, a small group of people advocating for reviving the previous regime would also start making efforts on it. These two groups even though they are insignificant in nature today would be able to create chaos in the country when the government is weak and the political stability is in question.

What would be the role of UCPN-Maoist, NC, CPN-UML and UDMF in resoling the political vacuum that would be created after the demise of the CA? They would not have any alternative to going together for saving the country from political chaos. So, they would build a consensus on running the country and facing the challenges of the extreme left and the extreme right if they have no hidden agenda to grab the power, and if they are sincere to institutionalize the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

The UDMF might play a significant role in making and breaking a government in the coming days. If the UCPN-Maoist goes together with the UDMF in the months to come, the current government would continue to run the administration following the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 after the end of the CA and the parliament as the CA is also the parliament. However, the NC and CPN-UML might play a political game to bring down the current government and form a new coalition of the NC, CPN-UML and UDMF to form a new government before the parliament dies with the CA. In this case, the UCPN-Maoist might go for the revolt of the people, as the Vaidya group of it wants. This will lead the country to a real conflict and political uncertainty.

If we take a look at the past ruling of the Supreme Court of Nepal on reviving the parliament dissolved by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikari of the CPN-UML we find that it had been instrumental to bring a drastic political changes in Nepal. After the revival of the dead parliament by the ruling of the Supreme Court of Nepal in 1995, the small political party called Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) that had 20 seats in the 205-seat parliament of that time had played a significant role in dirtying the politics and then running the administration for making money than anything else. The dirty political game had ended with the takeover by Gyanendra Shah in February 2005. It had brought the Maoists to the mainstream of the Nepalese politics and had been instrumental to declare Nepal a federal democratic republic.

The Vaidya group of the UCPN-Maoist must have been thinking that the current ruling of the Supreme Court of Nepal might be a tool to finish off the remnants of the feudal lords that have managed to stay on even after the termination of the monarchy. Most probably, this group might be thinking the ruling of the Supreme Court is the blessing in disguise for it to launch a people’s revolt. So, it has been strongly opposing the policy of Chairman of UCPN-Maoist Prachanda on going together with the parliamentary political parties and completing the peace process and the constitution writing. The Vaidya group wants the people’s constitution rather than compromising on a new constitution with the NC and CPN-UML. What the people’s constitution means the Vaidya group has to define it, yet.

Now, it is up to Prachanda whether he would be able to rescue his party from splitting and save the country from political chaos remains to be seen. He needs to work days and nights to convince the Vaidya group of the need for going together with all the political parties to complete the peace process and then the constitution writing. Prachanda has already said in public that Nepal could not emulate the political revolution successfully launched elsewhere but Nepal needs its own political evolution. It is an enough hint to the Vaidya group that the revolt of the people is not practicable and applicable in Nepal, and there is no alternative to building a consensus on a new constitution.

Time is running out very fast for completing a new constitution. The current debate over various issues of the new constitution is quite natural and need to be resolved by building a consensus on these issues then only the constitution would be lasting. We have seen the constitution of 1990 that was the product of emerging NC and CPN-UML and the then monarchy did not last long as it was not made with building a consensus of all stakeholders means the people. The CA needs to work hard to complete and promulgate a new constitution during the remaining five months of its term.

The Vaidya group is trying to pull out the agreed issues such as the phrase ‘armed struggle ‘ instead of ‘people’s war’ from including in a new constitution. It might be just an excuse for launching a people’s revolt. The Vaidya group is determined to take this issue to the people. It is hard even to guess whether the people would resolve it peacefully or violently. For us, the ‘armed struggle’ is more appropriate than the ‘people’s war’, as all the people were not involved in it.

We believe that Nepalis are not for any political revolt at this time. So, it depends on Prachanda whether he would be able to convince the Vaidya group of his party of this truth or whether he would be able to convince NC, CPN-UML and UDMF of the need for compromising on this issue to bring the Vaidya group to the main stream of the politics or to push it to a people’s revolt. To this end, the NC, CPN-UML and UDMF should look at this issue with sympathy and compromise on this matter for the sake of saving the country from the possible political chaos. If not, Nepalis would not have a new constitution for some time to come. Then we would not know what would be the political future of the nation.

December 28, 2011

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