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#4243, 10 January 2014

Year in Review

Nepal 2013: Constituent Assembly Elections
Uddhab Pyakurel
Kathmandu University, Nepal

Three major developments took place in Nepal during 2013: conclusion of integration process, formation of the caretaker government and the second elections for the constituent assembly.
End of the army integration process
With an agreement to dissolve the Special Committee (for supervision, integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants), Nepal Government stated on the April 12, 2013 that they have concluded army integration process by sorting out all the debated issues. This success has been considered as a major path breaking event for lasting peace and democratic consolidation in Nepal. Out of 17,052 regrouped ex-combatants 1422 were selected for integration. While 15,624 opted for voluntary retirement and six went for rehabilitation. 
Consensus in forming a  Caretaker Government
Major political parties that  were involved  in  negotiation to find a consensus Prime Ministerial  candidate to end the long  political stalemate , finally agreed in March 2013 to accept the sitting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nepal , Khil Raj Regmi as the chairperson of the interim election Government. 
The agreement ended the long standing hurdle on the formation of a new Government for holding new CA elections. Leaders from the four major political sections signed an eleven-point political agreement. It proposed that the head of the Government would resume his function as Chief Justice after he accomplishes the task of holding  CA elections. The agreement  was endorsed  by  the then Baburam Bhattarai-led Cabinet and also  recommended President Ram Baran Yadav to remove hurdles of 25 articles of the Interim Constitution  by issuing ordinance in order  to pave the way for the formation of a new interim election  government Chief Justice Regmi.   
Other election related activities were simultaneously carried out along with taking of oath by Justice Regimi. Office bearers to the election commission, including Chief Election Commissioner and Commissioners were filled up, which was followed by the process of collecting and updating voters' registration with photographs with deployment of around 800 mobile teams across the country.  
Also, the government endorsed five ordinances related to election and citizenship, allowing distribution of citizenship certificates by descent to the children of citizens by birth.
The above steps were materialized despite the opposition of 33 political parties that did not accept  Regimi's government .  They further said that they would not take part in the CA election unless the issues raised by them were addressed. According to them, they were for the Government led by a political party and not by the Chief Justice.  Instead they insisted on disrupting the election processes by all kinds of means to be employed by them.
Second Election to the Constituent Assembly
Since the term of the first CA which was elected in April 2008 was over without fulfilling its task to bring a new constitution, it took almost two years for Nepali political parties to hold fresh election of the second CA. 
Elections were held  on  19 November 2013 amidst a 10-day long nationwide bandh and transport strike called by the alliance of 33 political parties led by CPN-Maoist-Baidya.  However, more than 70 per cent of Nepal's 12 million voters turned out in elections defying a boycott call and threats of violence by the 33-party alliance. Home Ministry of Nepal claimed that the CA election was held very peacefully due to integrated and coordinated mobilization of the security persons. According to it, the anti-poll groups set up explosive devices at 16 places while suspicious objects were found at 32 locations of the country.  National and international observers also termed the election free and fair. 
In a surprising manner, the UCPN-M called an emergency press conference after two days on 21 November 2013 and stated that there had been national and international conspiracies in the election process. The party said that it would boycott the counting if the process was not reassessed. Once the Election Commission made its position clear saying that the vote counting of the CA elections 2013 would not be stopped and that it will continue until all ballots are counted, the UCPN-M decided to walk out of the counting centers reiterating that "the election process was against the people's mandate, conspiratorial and unexpected". 
The UCPN-M also threatened not to join the CA if its demand to go for a thorough investigation into the election was denied. But the party could not go with this stand as there was tremendous domestic and internationals pressure on them to own the election process. Eventually, the negotiation between it and other major political parties has softened the UCPN-Maoist position  for joining the  CA. Although the political parties except the Maoist –Baidya group and its allies, have vowed to write a constitution within a year, political wrangling on small other things have delayed the process of CA.  However, it is expected that the parties involved in electoral processes would work up to expectation of general people who want nothing more than constitution, peace and development. 
2013 in Nepal would be remembered for the successful elections to the second constituent assembly.

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