New constitution by mid-July ‘a tough ask’

  • Roadblocks: Disputes, constitution amendment, lengthy procedure
- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

Jun 13, 2015-

Though the major political parties have reached an understanding to promulgate the new constitution by mid-July, meeting the deadline appears to be a tough task even if the process is fast-tracked.

Having got 15 days to prepare the first draft, the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly will formally begin its task on Sunday. If things go as planned, the committee will come up with a preliminary draft of the constitution by the end of this month.

While signing the 16-point agreement on Monday, the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik had agreed to bring out the new constitution by mid-July, and initiate the process to form a national government thereafter.

However, leaders privy to cross-party negotiations admit that there are still some issues that need to be resolved politically, without which the first draft will not be ready on time.

Unless some pending issues are settled immediately, the preliminary draft will be delayed, said NC Joint General Secretary Purna Bahadur Khadka. The parties are yet to iron out the differences over Interim Constitution amendment, incorporating ‘pluralism’ in the draft, and having parliamentary system in the preamble. While the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC) submitted its proposal to the CA, the parties had agreed to take the drafting process forward and settle the contentious issues simultaneously.

The issues were put on hold after the dispute delayed PDCC report submission to the Assembly.

Even if the parties settled these issues promptly, there are several steps to be followed as per the CA Rules of Procedure.

Once the Drafting Committee submits its report to the CA, it will take at least a week to complete deliberations in the full House. Additional time is required to allow the parties and lawmakers to register separate bills if they have reservations about the preliminary draft.

The parties are divided over the amount of time to be allotted for discussing the draft with the people. The CA Rules require the first draft to be presented to the public for feedback. Since it is not possible to take months to collect public opinion, the parties are planning to cut the process short.

As it is not possible to reach out to the people for their views due to the time and other constraints, said NC leader Khadka, the parties are mulling over collecting feedback through the media and other platforms. The opposition UCPN (Maoist) wants the draft to reach electoral constituencies, if not lower levels. “There should be discussion on the first draft at least in the constituencies,” said Maoist Chief Whip Giriraj Mani Pokhrel.

Once these tasks are over, the new constitution will then be presented as a bill in the CA which needs to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority.

CA officials say it takes at least three months if all the processes are to be followed. Joint-secretary at CA Secretariat Rabi Sharma Aryal said it is up to the parties to decide how to fast-track the process.

Major parties are also planning to hold negotiations with five Madhes-based and Janajati parties that have objected to the 16-point deal.

Published: 14-06-2015 08:33

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