Nepal: Decoding the Constituent Assembly Election-II

30 Apr, 2013    ·   3910

Sohan Prasad Sha deconstructs the political deadlock in the country

Ever since the Constituent Assembly (CA)-I was dissolved in May 2012 without drafting the constitution, holding fresh elections for the CA-II has been Nepal’s political discourse. The tussle amongst political parties has led to a lapse of more than nine months before a new government was formed in March 2013 under Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi to lead the elections.

However, the appointment of the CJ to hold the CA-II elections for drafting a new constitution is being seen as outside the purview of the Interim Constitution of Nepal (2007). Nonetheless, a section within Nepal accepts this extra constitutional arrangement for holding free and fair CA elections, and to end the political deadlock.

What if the elections for CA-II do not take place (the worst case scenario) or if it is continually postponed? Why is it that the 11-point agreement, which agreed to hold elections by June 2013 becomes fallible suddenly, in such a short span of time?

On the Crisis of Political Institutions in Nepal
The onus to hold CA-II elections lies on the political parties, which in turn generate more heat than light. Firstly, the formation of the HLPM for paving the way for a CJ-led election government in itself is being seen as a detrimental factor. There are almost 33 political parties that do not come under the purview of HLPM, and these groups are led by Mohan-Baidya (CPN-Maoist), Upendra Yadav (Madhesi Janadhikar Forum – Nepal) amongst others. However, within these dominant groups, their political positions differ subtly.

The CPN-Maoist is against the HLPM and has imposed certain conditions for it to be brought to the negotiating table. While maintaining a categorical position on dissolving the CJ-led government, the tampering of the Interim Constitution in the name of removing constitutional difficulties needs to be scraped for them. On the other hand, the Federal Democratic Forum (FDF) led by Upendra Yadav (an alliance of six parties) has put forward a 13-point demand to the CJ-led election government – to dissolve the HLPM, the resignation of CJ, fresh identification of electoral constituencies, fresh consensus outside the HLPM, amongst others.

As a result, Nepal seems to be in crisis with polarised politics (the HLPM vis-à-vis other political parties) upholding the upcoming CA elections. Secondly, the major political parties are yet to finalise the rationale for election campaigning, as there is strong disenchantment among the people. Thirdly, the CA-I was dissolved due to disagreements on the issue of federalism and the coming CA elections will be a referendum on federal lines.

Federalism has become one of the most emotional issues for a large section of marginalised people (Madhesis, Janjati, Dalit, Muslims, and others); and tactical alliances will be formed within the periphery of federalism (for or against) between the traditional political parties (widely known as status quo forces in Nepal) vis-à-vis the political parties invoking for ‘change’. Finally, where all these points entwine further complicates the issue of holding elections, since many political parties/politicos seems to have an existential threat if CA-II elections do not favour them. Thus, the question of ensuring the process remains in favour of them may result in putting the CA-II elections on the brink. In the midst of this, the impression of holding the CA-II elections is becoming a mythical being for many. It is so because even if the politicos accept that the elections are the only way to give legitimacy to the prevailing situation, the entire process is being seen within the lens of scepticism among peoples’ opinion in Nepal.

Failure of alleviating technical issues in holding CA-II Elections
Furthermore, to hold free and fair CA-II elections, there are many constraints that need to be resolved. For completing the remaining peace process, citizenship problems that predominate in Madesh (Southern part of Nepal), updating the voter’s registration in the midst of obstructions from fringe elements, disagreements regarding the appointment of members to constitutional bodies, reducing the proportional representation seats in the CA-II, and the differences with the elections-related ordinance which have been put on hold and are yet to reach a consensus across the political parties, need to be addressed.

To conclude, elections are the only solution. However, the preparations for holding free and fair elections have caught up between ‘myths’ and ‘realities’. The way the elections’ preparations have been so far underway has only seen despair in the public’s opinion. One can only hope that holding the elections turns out to be a ‘reality’. However, the bone of contention remains that what if the election keeps postponing; or in the worst case, that a conducive environment to hold them does not prevail.  With other aspects remaining constant, do the political institutions have a viable alternative in Nepal to reach across the political parties in order to bring them within the elections process, or to check and balance the CJ-led government? The chief of the CJ-led government, Khil Raj Regmi stated that the new elections date would not be decided in haste. Perhaps, if given a chance to hold free and fair elections, the people of Nepal could narrow down a polity that is too divided. For now, this is the only hope in Nepal.