RAM KUMAR KAMAT/ PRAKASH ACHARYA
KATHMANDU: After weeks of intense negotiations on five most contentious issues of constitution — forms of governance, federalism, citizenship, election system and judiciary — three major political parties — the Unified CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML — today cut a deal and broke the political deadlock.
With the three major parties coming together, the Constituent Assembly will now be able to promulgate a new constitution by the May 27 deadline.
After haggling for long, the parties finally realised that they cannot frame a new constitution unless they give up their stances and reach a compromise.
Today’s agreement will make the new constitution a document with agreed features of democracy, far from Maoists’ initial notion of incorporating some features of the socialist system into law of the land. However, analysts and party leaders are not convinced that the mixed model of governance will last long and augur well for the country.
“Today’s agreement has ensured that the new constitution will be completely a democratic document,” said NC leader Bimalendra Nidhi.
The Maoists, who had been advocating presidential system, relented at last and compromised on mixed system of governance. Similarly, NC, which favoured Westminster style of democracy, and UML, which pitched for directly elected prime minister, also gave up their stances. The premise for the compromise was set after the Maoists gave up their stance of 14 pradeshes and NC and UML, who initially lobbied for six-seven pradeshes, settled for 11 pradeshes.
What was most notable in today’s agreement was Maoists’ deciding to forgo their demand of single ethnic identity-based federalism.
With just 13 days at hand, political parties were under tremendous pressure to come to terms with each other. But the United Democratic Madhesi Front, which said it felt betrayed by the three major parties, could only agree to disagree.
Today’s agreement may have created a win-win situation for the three parties, who have the combined strength of a two thirds majority required for the promulgation of a new constitution, but it has infuriated Madhesi, indigenous nationalities and Dalit communities.
Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya said the major parties, it seems, have left the issue(s) of federalism for Pradesh Sabhas and a to-be-formed federal commission to decide.
The big three parties are yet to prepare the blueprint of 11 pradeshes but sources say they will propose three pradeshes in the Tarai with Chitwan and Makwanpur as a buffer. Whether Kailali and Kanchanpur will remain in Madhes is also not certain. Madhesis and Tharus are likely to protest because they are against mixing any pradesh from Madhes with non-Madhes pradeshes.
However, federalism is a continuously evolving process. A pradesh with certain name and boundary can change tomorrow. If the Big III can ensure such a provision in the new constitution and win confidence of disenchanted groups by accommodating their core concerns, it will increase the stake for everybody in the new constitution. After all, the constitution is a document of judicious compromise.