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Constitution: Now for distress SOS signal

By R.K.Regmee

The key leaders of modern Nepali politics are in the trap of series of political deadlocks created by themselves in their passion for power. In the next five months, they will not be able to free themselves from the muddle to afford time for focusing on the noble job of scribbling the Constitution for Republican Nepal. Observers have already noticed the Constituent Assembly's signals for SOS, the famous international symbol indicating distress and requesting urgent help. They fear the much-expected Document will not be ready by May 28, 2011.

Politicos have wasted seven valuable months of one-year-extra-time of CA doing politics to capture power under the pretext of working out consensus for forming government and preparing way to finalize the Constitution. The yield of their effort is negative: pushing them back to the same old troublesome riddle of who to pick up for replacing caretaker government - Prachanda of UCPN-Maoist, or Poudel of NC or Khanal of CPN UML or any other? The process for deciding on this is as confusing as in the past.

All the political patterns practiced by leaders in recent times clearly show that the opposition leader Prachanda wants nothing but his personal leadership in government. He strongly believes that he deserves the post because of his party's single largest status in parliament. If he does not get it he would not allow any other dispensation to either take shape or build up smoothly.

Other political parties understand this well: In rejecting Maoist Premiership, they do not simply know how to manage the chain of challenges that such denial goes on creating. Problems and factions inside their parties do not allow them to tackle them right away. In some cases internal factors fuel the challenge and make matters more complicated.

Contradictory pull

Crushed in between the two forces are the pursuits of constitution, peace and parliamentary practices. The issue of integration of Maoist combatants has also been victimized because of contradictory pull by parties. Nothing substantial is likely to be done in this regard by the time UNMIN leaves mid-January. A gap in supervision-mechanism of combatants and weapons will then be created. This will trigger yet another endless chaotic debate among parties damaging further the prospects for finishing constitution in time.

In rhetoric, however, all issues of constitution, peace, parliament and integration have been given tactfully sweet continuity: no politico fails to routinely refer to them in public speeches or meetings. All are keen to project themselves as sincerely committed to finalization of Constitution as per the verdict of People's Movement II. Many forward logic to prove that the Republic will have no democratic future without the Constitution. They explain convincingly how crucial the document is to treasure the achievements of PP-II.

Actually in practice, the mandate political parties received from the people during the Constituent Assembly election on April 10, 2008 appears to have been forgotten in practical terms. No civilian force or public institution is there to question politicos about their accountability towards voters. The queries from the press get either ignored or evaded.

Withdrawal of the Special Session of parliament for giving way to regular session has ignited another round of trying for Premiership by leaders in a complete re-run of past political tape-record. The opposition leader Prachanda aims at it once again taking Khanal into confidence. But a section of the CPN UML and all other parties oppose the move reiterating "Maoist leadership in government is not acceptable unless it transforms itself into civilian party." Khanal looks confident Maoists would help him in his bid for PM post if Prachanda does not have a chance. Both appear determined to corner NC. They plan to begin the task first by either knocking out Poudel in prime ministerial poll at the regular session or compelling him to quit before poll.

NC plays its own tune with hope that it will lead the next government any way: if Poudel quits or loses the election another candidate from the party might emerge as an acceptable choice for next coalition government. "Madhesh parties would back the proposition while Maoists would be compelled not to oppose it," they argue in a day-dream mode. Some in CPN UML would like to wish differently: may their party or their caretaker Premier not lose government leadership ever!.

Capitalizing on vacuum

Observers portray the latest political position in a rather pessimistic manner: the Constitution writing has been sandwiched between tall talk and no act. Political parties are simply strengthening their party-position under the excuse of working out a Constitution. Their goal is to capitalize best on the vacuum-situation that would emerge after the term of CA ends with no Constitution. A number of strategies are being considered for the same. All three key parties have in one way or the other developed the same.

The UCPN-Maoist rejected outright the proposal to extend the tenure of the high level Task Force formed under its chairman Prachanda's leadership to politically tackle hurdles before scripting the Constitution. Of the 210 issues identified as key obstacles in writing Constitution only 127 have been solved. More serious ones are in urgent need to be addressed. The 27 political parties and the Constitutional Committee of the Constituent Assembly will have to take them now. But the differences among parties would not allow them to work out consensus on the issues.

A meticulous reading of the political situation obtaining in 2010-end suggests: the task of scripting the new Constitution is now no more than a theme to talk about, it looks more aspirational than achievable in nature. The calendar does not have sufficient time for doing so. Top leaders do not have minimum political understanding for the purpose. Nepalis will have to manage with no-peace-state of post-conflict situation under the Interim Constitution for some time more. The pain they will have to bear for this is what worries most.

Some miracle-like move, diehard optimists believe, would eventually produce the constitution at the last minute. Worriers cannot buy that dream. People in the street are looking forward to how power-oriented leaders will steer their politics in between the two extremes.

The writer can be reached at [email protected] Nepalnews.com Dec 29 10

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