Dodging questions

  • Party’s indecisiveness on delineation and naming of provinces could prove costly
Dodging questions

Jun 7, 2015-

One effect of the earthquake was to make people forget old enmities and adopt more conciliatory positions towards their enemies and rivals. And to a certain extent this was evident in the political sphere as well. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, no opposition leader tried to take advantage of the moment to undermine the government. Instead, top leaders across parties realised that they had to present a united front to deal with the major calamity that had struck Nepal.

Over the past month, it has also become evident that political leaders have become more aware than before that it would be beneficial for the country’s and their own self-interest if they were to overcome old disputes. This has pushed them towards finding an agreement on outstanding constitutional disputes. Parties seem to give the impression that they are on their way toward reaching an agreement on federalism.

However, there are signs that the negotiation process is not working in an entirely desirable way. While the leaders of the three major parties appear very keen to reach an agreement as soon as possible, they do not seem to have been paying enough attention to key aspects of the federalism debate. In fact, many of them believe that the best option is to postpone decisions on certain key aspects of federalism. Hence, there has been an absurd proposal over the past week that the parties should agree that a federal model of six states will be adopted, but leave the delineation of borders and the naming of provinces to be determined by a future panel or a commission. In principle, there is nothing wrong with postponing the resolution of some technical aspects of federalism. But at the very least, the constitution should include the broad contours of what the federal model will look like and the principles it will be based upon. The proposal to postpone, especially the delineation of provinces, envisages providing no answer to these questions at all. That could turn out to be a Pandora’s box.

The urge to swiftly agree on a new constitution regardless of its contents raises suspicions. Already, some Madhesi and Janajati leaders suspect that the CPN-UML and the UCPN (Maoist) are keen to quickly be done with a constitution so that they can form a new government under their leadership. These parties need to be careful not to appear as opportunistic and power-hungry at this crucial moment. While their attempt to reach an agreement on the constitution is a positive step, they also need to demonstrate the requisite seriousness and flexibility in grappling with some fundamental questions. At the very least, they need to provide clarity about how the principles of identity and viability will be included in the new federal model. If they are able to do this, they will be able to gain the consent of the smaller parties as well as the broader population and pave the way for a lasting constitution.

Published: 08-06-2015 07:14

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