Mind The Mandate
Hectic last minute efforts aimed at issuing the new constitution by the January 22 deadline may or may not bear fruit, but the sense of urgency with which all the political parties represented in the Constituent Assembly are taking part in the ongoing process shows they have not totally backtracked from their commitment to the people. President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav is asking the parties if they still honoured the commitment. During the CA election of November 2013, the political parties had pledged to write the constitution as their first and foremost agenda. Next, they decided on the deadline to accomplish the task. Then the search began for consensus on the issues of federalism, form of government, judiciary and electoral system as the political parties picked up the thread of debates from where they had left at the demise of the 4-year-old CA elected in 2008. Soon after, almost all the same leaders of the same political parties were beating about the issues with the same arguments as they sat across the table to decide how to chart out the journey to a peaceful and prosperous new republic of Nepal.
What generated hope among the people about the prospects of our political parties being able to resolve the deadlock on the crucial issues in constitution writing was the number of seats they had secured in the new CA. The largest party of the old CA, the UCPN-Maoist, which was relegated to the third slot, now sat on the opposition benches. The Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, the largest and the second largest parties, formed a coalition government, with some minor partners, to lead the constitution-writing process and run the state affairs. Together, the ruling parties enjoyed the magic two-thirds majority, which gave them massive leverage if they were to decide on the issues through a vote. In fact, the people, who were obviously frustrated with the first CA, and its members, could not have chosen a better combination of leaders to write the constitution and lead the government. The liberal ruling coalition, which continued the consensus search despite its overwhelming voting strength in the CA, has remained intact so far and will be around until the January 22 deadline.
So, what stops the CA from choosing to vote on the issues if the political parties continue to stick to their old stands on the issues of constitution writing? The insistence of the opposition parties, mainly the UCPN-Maoist, that consensus was the only right instrument to decide on the controversial contents of the constitution, not the vote, is a characteristic stand of an opposition with its diminished voting strength. But everyone knows, despite the genuine search for consensus for so long, the political parties have not been able to rise above their partisan, ideological or other characteristic branding to find a common point to write the constitution. One such rare moment of political consensus had produced the Interim Constitution. The political parties can adopt this document as the constitution of the country, to be amended and revised as per the need of the nation in the future. If that consensus document looks inadequate for some reasons now, the parties should honour the people who elected them by putting the issues at stake to a vote in the CA and deciding the contents of the future constitution.
Anup Raj Sharma, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), is also a former Chief Justice. Sharma says that the overall human rights...