What is Nepal’s problem related to the new Constitution

Thanks to Pramod Jaiswal, The Diplomat

 

The core aim of formulating the new constitution via the Constituent Assembly was to undo the concentrations of power — political, social and economic — to make the Nepalese society inclusive and democratic in the widest sense.

Features of new constitution – 

  • After nearly eight years of work, Nepal finally promulgated its new constitution in mid-September 2015. Nepal has had seven constitutions (including the interim constitution) in the past six decades, but this is the first time a constitution has been passed by a properly elected CA. This illustrates the long quest in Nepal for socio-political stability. The present constitution is based on majority voting in the Constituent Assembly (instead of being based on consensus).
  • The new constitution proposes a federal structure, with organization in seven provinces.
  • The new constitution has defined Nepal as a secular state.
  • Nepal will have a parliamentary form of government. The president elected by collegia of the Legislative Parliament and the National Assembly, as well as the provincial legislative bodies. The prime minister will be elected by the Legislative Parliament, based on a majority. The Constitutional Council will nominate the Chief Justice, heads, and members of the Constitutional Commissions. The Judicial Council nominates the judges of the Supreme, High, and District Courts, thus making the judicial system is an integrated one.
  • 45 per cent of Nepal’s parliament will be elected by proportional representation in comparison to 58 per cent under the previous post-war interim constitution. Nepal’s new constitution has allocated nearly 100 of the 165 seats in the parliament to residents of the hill and mountain regions, despite their population share being less than 50 per cent of the total. Conversely, the Terai region, which constitutes only 20 per cent of Nepal’s territory but accounts for approximately 50 per cent of the country’s total population, has been left with only 65 seats.

Journey of  the Constitution 

  • The first CA was elected in 2008 was dissolved in 2012 as it failed to deliver the constitution despite several postponements due to bitter differences among political parties on matters of federalism, government, judiciary and elections. The second CA was elected in 2013 and political parties pledged to deliver the constitution in one year.
  • The 16 point agreement was a breakthrough, resulting in the present constitution. In the 16 point agreement, top leaders of the major political parties represented in the CA – the Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (Democratic) – agreed to federate the country into eight provinces and promulgate a constitution.
  • Earlier six provinces were proposed running north to south linking the hills to the plains with most of the provinces sharing borders with India. Seventh province was added after lots of protests.
  • The Madheshi, the Janajatis, women and the marginalised communities have refused to accept the new constitution. The only Madhesi party that was initially a signatory of the 16 point agreement also withdrew its support. In the subsequent protests 40 people were killed. Due to sit-downs of the protesters on the roads, the traffic from India to Nepal hinterland remained blocked.

The dissent and Madhes factor – 

  • The Madhes region is actually the Terai area of southern Nepal that shares a border with the northern Indian state of Bihar. Any political instability in that region will have an adverse impact on Bihar. None of the major Madhes-based political parties have signed the new constitution. The Madhesis have been fighting for equal representation in the country’s political structure, and according to them, the new constitution has failed to meet their aspirations.
  • The Madheshi and Tharus are demanding provisions for proportionate inclusion of under-represented groups in the state organs, constituency delimitation on the basis of population to ensure political representation of the Tarai, and the revision of federal boundaries. Women representative groups perceive the new Constitution as regressive, for it adopts discriminatory citizenship laws. Simultaneously, there is an emerging voice towards the demand for an autonomous Limbuwan province by the Janajatis of Eastern Nepal.

India’s role –

India has consistently recommended that Nepal promulgate a constitution that is based on a genuine consensus and one that represents the aspirations of all sections of the Nepalese society. Otherwise, it may again lead to an unstable Nepal.

Nepal blames India for its present blockade which has severely reduced the supply of essential goods including food, fuel, etc to Nepal. India says the blockade is in Nepal’s territory. The border check-points are wide open.

 

For further reading –

Pramod Jaiswal @ ipcs.org – Federalism and Nepal’s internal differences

Pramod Jaiswal @ipcs.org – New Constitution features

Pramod Jaiswal @ipcs.org – Nepal’s internal differences

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