By Divya Singh Rathore
“Today, there is a huge demonstration in Kathmandu by the opposition. The issue is on the federal structure of the constitution”,SurendraPhuyal of the BBC Nepali Service, reported from Kathmandu on 21 January 2015. He had described about the general strike in Kathmandu on 20 January 2015 stating that tensions were running high in the capital city Kathmandu…Nepal’s wait for a new constitution has been long and painful, and has followed a decade of bloody civil war. He had further said, “Under the country’s former monarchy the constitution was written by commissions approved by the king – but Maoist rebels fought an insurgency to overthrow the monarchy and install a new republican state.” In fact a fresh constitution would be another step in Nepal’s democratisation, which began in 2006 with the signing of a historic but unholy peace agreement between the Maoists and the then government. Since then hopes of progress have stalled as political parties failed to agree over such key issues as the names and number of proposed states, forms of governance and electoral and judicial systems. Repeated deadlines for a new constitution have been missed and several governments have come and gone. Deadline looming Nepalese riot police personnel stand guard in front of a barricade during a general strike in Kathmandu January 20, 2015. Thousands of police were deployed ahead of the expected vote on the draft constitution. The first election after the 2006 peace agreement catapulted the Maoist former rebels, now known as the United Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (UCPN-Maoist), to power. They became the largest party ahead of the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal – United Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML), which was relegated to the second and third largest elected political forces respectively. The MadhesiJanadhikar Forum (MJF) also emerged as a remarkable force from the Taraiplains of the southern Nepal bordering India. But petty politics meant this first Constituent Assembly (CA), elected in May 2008, failed in its mission to give Nepal its badly-needed constitution by May 2012. The Maoists then lost power in the second CA elections held in November 2013, emerging as the third largest force after the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML. Nepal’s established parties were back on top and their leaders set a new deadline for the constitution: 22 January 2015. But the work is far from done. Sticking points, the new political order post-2013 sent the former rebel Maoist party and the newly-emerged Madhesi parties to the opposition benches. Nepali Congress leader SushilKoirala, who led a coalition alongside the CPN-UML, took on the responsibility of promulgating the new constitution, where the Maoists had failed. Yet the same issues which stymied earlier attempts remain. Theywere: The names, numbers and boundaries of the proposed federal states. The biggest sticking point was whether or not to federate the country along ethnic lines or names. The Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, who are pitching for multi-ethnic federal states, feared that federating the nation along ethnic lines could lead to conflict or even to its disintegrating. Forms of governance, such as whether to give executive powers to the president or the prime minister.The type of electoral system the nation should adopt – direct (first-past-the-post), proportional or a mix of both. The type of judicial system the nation should adopt – whether to make it federal; the formation of a constitutional court. Threat of unrest, the opposition players, known for their hard-line postures on federalism, forms of governance and the electoral system, are not giving in easily. Nepali constituent assembly members scuffle with security officers at parliament in Kathmandu early on January 20, 2015. Opposition members scuffled with security officers in parliament on Monday night. Maoist leader Prachanda has demanded that their views be taken into consideration. An alliance of 30 parties including the Madhesi that he led has already started street protests and strikes. “Even if the consensus was not made, the sky won’t fall,” Dinanath Sharma, a Maoist leader, told the BBC. “If the ruling alliance opted for the so-called voting procedure to end disputes related to the constitution, it would push the nation towards confrontation, which won’t be good.”
Meanwhile, the bid to restore Nepal to monarchy after republic was declared in 2008 – appeared to be getting stronger, with the pro-monarchy movement maintaining its campaign.
In the face of frantic political negotiations, one thing is for sure: these parties with different self-interests cannot be united, therefore, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nepal would remain a mirage for Nepal’s 30-million population. The only solution for Nepal could be the restoration of the monarchy which could keep the countryunited and could give a democratic constitution like in the past, particularly in 2046 BS as suggested and implemented by Late Krishna Prasad Bhattrai and Bishwo Nath Upadhaya.
Restore constitutional monarchy to resolve present deadlock
By Divya Singh Rathore