For the people

  • Political parties should prioritise drafting a widely acceptable constitution

Aug 2, 2015-

The Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) was supposed to have completed the task of incorporating public opinion into the draft constitution by yesterday. However, the committee has not been able to accomplish this task. And indeed, the committee members can hardly be faulted for this. They were allotted a mere four days for this task—a period of time that is inadequate especially given the complexities involved.

There are many different issues here. Most crucially, no proper criteria have been established to enable the committee to decide which issues raised by the public should be incorporated into the constitution and which left out. In the absence of such criteria, any attempt to revise the draft can only be of an ad hoc nature. And such an approach can only antagonise various sections of the population.

It is of urgent necessity, therefore, that the parties consult widely and come up with a list of criteria that outlines how public opinion will be incorporated into the draft constitution.

In the process of revising the draft, so as to make it acceptable to a wide range of public opinion, the parties need to take certain political aspects into account. Most importantly, it is necessary to ensure that the constitution will not be rejected by a large section of the population. At the current time, Madhesi groups have expressed the staunchest opposition to the constitution. Their views need to be taken into account. The parties would do well to start the process of demarcating boundaries (the broad contours at the least) between provinces and complete this task before the promulgation of the constitution.

After all, this is a demand that was expressed widely by the Madhesi population. Demarcating provincial boundaries would go some way towards reducing public anger in the Tarai. In addition to this, it will be necessary to make changes to the constitution so that women receive equal rights to pass on citizenship to their children, and strengthen various measures for the inclusion of marginalised groups.

The Nepali Congress and now also the UCPN (Maoist) have been pushing for the demarcation of borders before the constitution is drafted. The CPN-UML, in contrast, is in favour of leaving this for later as it does not want the constitution-drafting process to be delayed. It seems that the UML wants a constitution in a hurry so as to change the government and gain access to state power. The party need to realise that its actions now will have a long-term effect on the country. If the constitution is rejected by a broad section of the population, or gives rise to unrest, the political parties will be blamed for it. Rather than focusing solely on gaining access to power, a broad-based political process should prioritise drafting a legitimate and credible constitution.

Published: 03-08-2015 13:27

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