Nepal constitution drafting hit as 85 CA members walk out

Kathmandu, Sep 9 (IANS) Nepal’s bid to finalise a new constitution has hit a serious roadblock as 85 Constituent Assembly (CA) members have walked out from the constitution drafting process after being dissatisfied over several issues.

The assembly has 601 seats but the proposed constitution needs a two-thirds majority to “endorse” each and every article.

However, votes and numbers are not important, and it is all about the consensus, as according to the Interim Constitution of Nepal (2007) the constitution will be promulgated through consensus not by vote — thus, the fresh developments are being taken as a roadblock in the the ongoing process of constitution framing.

Nepal is in the final leg of bringing out a new constitution. But at the verge of its promulgation, Nepal witnessed deadly clashes in its southern belt where 33 protestors were killed till Wednesday over the issue of federalism, creating a chaotic situation.

Nepal’s three major political parties, enjoying two-thirds majority in the CA, had agreed to federate the country in seven states a month ago — and that has been the source of major conflict since.

Political constituencies from women, dalits, Muslims, Tharus, Madhes-Terai and the Indigenous peoples have expressed serious reservation over the draft of the new constitution. They have been urging the major parties to address their respective grievances.

In response, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala dispatched two letters to the agitating communities to hold talks but the appeal did not yield any positive result and instead the protestors continued their agitation.

CA members, representing the Madhes-Terai belt within the major three parties also warned of a rebellion. If that happens, the constitution drafting process will be prolonged and it would be difficult to bring out a constitution in such a scenario.

The Madhes-Terai belt is still boiling, witnessing deadly clashes every day, with roadblocks on the highways that have led to shortage of essential goods in the rest of landlocked Nepal.

Several hundred trucks and containers, laden with essential goods, heading to Nepal from India, have been stopped at the Nepal-India border for many days.

Several districts have been put under curfew and declared riot-affected areas. But the situation has not improved since protests have been intensifying day-by-day in the southern plains.

Other issues of dissatisfaction are issues of inclusiveness, citizenship, and withdrawal of the Nepal Army from riot-affected areas, among others.

For the past 26 days, Nepal’s southern plains have remained shut down, with normal life paralysed and keeping over 3.2 million students out of schools.

More CA members have threatened to leave the CA, expressing dissatisfaction over the drafting process where most of them are unhappy over the seven-province federal model.

A pro-Hindu party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party that has 25 seats, has walked out from the process. “We have decided to boycott the constitution drafting process,” party chairman Kamal Thapa said on Wednesday, calling for restoration of Hindu statehood in Nepal.

Besides the pro-Hindu Rastriya Prajatantra Party, other political parties and individual 60 CA members from the southern plains have already left the process.

They are Sangiya Samajbadi Party (15), Madheshi Jana Adhikar Forum, Loktantrik (14), Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party (11), Sadbhawana Party (6), and the Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party (3).

Similarly, Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party (3), Tharuhat Terai Pary (3), Nepal Sadbhawana Party (1), Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum, Ganatantrik (1), Sanghiya Loktantrik Manch (1) and three other CA members have also quit the process.

The opposition to the federalism proposal was raised by these parties. If they do not participate, it will be difficult to implement and endorse the new constitution.

The spirit of the CA is to form a consensus of all parties on the process of framing the new document. If these Madhes-Terai -based parties boycott the process, it will not be an inclusive constitution, political experts opine.

(Anil Giri can be contacted at girianil@gmail.com)

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