Fresh CA elections, top party leaders aver
Come tomorrow, parties will begin talks on clearing legal and constitutional hurdles in holding the polls
KATHMANDU, SEP 20 -
Major political parties have finally agreed to go for fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) elections after their three-week-long talks failed to make a breakthrough on contentious issues of a new constitution—a prerequisite for the revival of the Constituent Assembly.
In talks among the four major political forces, which lasted for two hours on Wednesday afternoon, leaders agreed to start negotiations from Friday to discuss clearing constitutional and legal hurdles to hold the fresh polls.
Until Wednesday, CA revival was still considered the best option to end the current deadlock, but consensus remained elusive as parties were unwilling for a compromise on federalism, the most divisive issue in the new constitution.
“The door for CA revival is closed now, and we will go for a fresh mandate to draft a new constitution,” said CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal after the talks at the Special Committee Secretariat, next to the now defunct CA building, in New Baneshwor. UCPN (Maoist) Spokesperson Agni Sapkota also said the parties have decided to go for elections.
Though the parties agreed in principle to go for a fresh mandate, it is going to be an uphill task, not least because of constitutional hurdles. The Interim Constitution 2007 has not envisioned a second CA election. Parties also have to find consensus on procedural issues. One outstanding question in everyone’s mind already is whether the new CA will be as bloated as the one that was dissolved on May 27.
For now, the most disputed issue will be the formation of an election government, its nature and composition.
President Ram Baran Yadav has already told the parties he will not take measures to amend electoral laws and the Interim Constitution without a national unity government.
A unity government should first ask the President to exercise Article 158 of the Interim Constitution (a clause related to removing difficulties).
The three major parties —UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML—have staked claim to the next government’s leadership. The Madhes-based parties are now likely to join the fray.
Then there’s another option, which has never been exercised in Nepal before: A ‘neutral government’ led by former Supreme Court justices or civil society representatives in case parties fail to come up with a consensus candidate. Given the political parties’ declining public image, analysts are not ruling out this option. “Still, there will be represenatation from all parties in such a government,” Sadbhawana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato said.
“The new government will fix the election date,” said NC General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula, without quite explaining what the nature of the new government will be like.
Though still fluid, it is likely that the parties will agree on the CA-cum-parliament election. Nepali Congress, which had made up its mind for parliamentary elections just after the CA dissolution, has now agreed on this mode of election.
In his political paper presented in the party’s CC meet last week, Sitaula has proposed May next year as a suitable time to hold the new elections.
The UML has also taken a decision in favour of fresh parliamentary elections, but its leaders said on Wednesday they would still accept a CA-cum-parliament election. The breakaway Maoist party, CPN-Maoist, however, has opposed the election idea.
Party Secretary Netra Bikram Chand has called it “a regressive step taken by a few leaders.”
“There is no national consensus on it. It would create new complexities, rather than resolving the disputes.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the four-party talks yet again hit a roadblock. The NC and the UML proposed that the UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesi parties accept the May 15 agreement on state restructuring, which called for federating the country into 11 provinces. However, the Maoists and the Madhesi Morcha stood firm on either a 10- or 14-state model, as proposed by the State Restructuring Commission and Restructuring Commi-ssion of CA.
On May 27, just an hour before the dissolution of the CA at the stroke of midnight, the government had fixed November 22 the date for fresh CA elections, a move that was immediately opposed by parties outside the government. Subsequently, though the government forwarded election ordinances to President Yadav for approval, the head of state refused to oblige, stating that there was no consensus on CA elections.
The disbanded CA was elected in April 2008 and given a mandate to draft a new constitution within two years. It was extended four times (first on May 28, 2011 for one year, May 29, 2011for three months, August 29, 2011 for another three months and November 30, 2011 for six months).
The CA went into automatic dissolution on May 27, following a Supreme Court order that put a six-month term cap on its extension.
Janajati leaders slam decision
Janajati leaders on Wednesday said the decision of the major parties to go for fresh CA elections is immature and that it may invite further complications. They said the decision will prolong the constitution writing process for years. “The decision has ended the peoples’ hope of getting a constitution. It is nothing but a move to extend the term of the government,” said UML leader Prithivi Subba Gurung.
Janajati and Madhesi leaders of the UML and other parties have been advocating for CA revival.
Another Janajati leader Ajambar Rai Kangmang said CA revival was the “safest” way to promulgate the new statute. “The leaders opted a risky game,” he said.
Posted on: 2012-09-20 08:32