Race against time
- The Constituency Delineation Commission should be allowed to function independently
Jul 21, 2017-
There was widespread opposition to the ruling parties’ proposal to keep the number of First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) constituencies at 240, instead of reducing it to 165. This appears to have led the government to backtrack. This is a positive development. Keeping the constituencies at 240 would have meant amending the constitution, which cannot be done at the whim of political parties.
Granted, implementing the constitution will be a difficult task. The temptation to revert to old provisions with which the parties are familiar will always be present. But the new constitution exists for a reason. It is supposed to bring about a broad restructuring of the Nepali state. To seek an easy way out at every turn would mean a shirking of responsibilities by the parties. Their task is to confront hard problems directly and find appropriate solutions.
Now that the local elections are almost completed, attention has turned towards
provincial and federal elections. The most difficult task in this process will be delineating constituencies. It is a positive development that after much delay, the government finally formed a Constituency Delineation Commission (CDC) yesterday. The commission has been given 21 days to submit its report.
However, the formation of a committee will not be enough in itself to solve the problem. Given Nepal’s experience, we can expect that the process of re-delineating constituencies will be a fraught one, with parties vying to ensure that boundaries are delineated in a way favourable to each. The political disputes that will arise could well lead to major delays in holding elections.
And these are delays that Nepal cannot afford. The constitution states that all three elections have to be completed by January 2018. In February, the Supreme Court issued a judgement stating the same. There is thus a possibility that the current Parliament will dissolve if elections are not held by that date. This would lead to a major constitutional crisis, similar to the one witnessed in 2012.
Therefore, the re-delineation of constituencies should be undertaken with urgency. There is considerable doubt about whether 21 days will be enough for the CDC to submit its report. As such, the government should ensure that political disputes do not overwhelm the process. The CDC should be allowed to function freely and without political interference. Equally importantly, the political parties should agree that its recommendations will be final. This will prevent powerful parties from revising the CDC’s recommendations as per their interests. 3
Published: 21-07-2017 08:06