Dancing by the cliff

There are less than three months left before the 28 May deadline for the promulgation of the new Nepali constitution. With the 601-member Constituent Assembly not having used the allotted two years for drafting the document efficiently, key constitutional as well as communitarian issues remain unresolved. The peace process hangs fire. At this juncture, there are two options: extend the deadline or convince the political parties to agree on a truncated 'framework constitution'. As the decision looms, there are widespread fears of anarchy, accompanied by a rightwing surge amidst the political polarisation and public frustration.

There are two main obstacles that stand in the way of the constitution-writing, and they have mainly to do with the distance between the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the other political forces, in particular the CPN (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Nepali Congress. First, the peace process, which was supposed to have been successfully concluded before the new constitution was announced, is ongoing, with the 19,000-plus former Maoist combatants still in UN-supervised cantonments. Second, there are many areas of disagreements that the 11 committees of the Constituent Assembly have not been able to sort out, some of which go to the heart of whether Nepal is going to have a democratic constitution or a populist, unworkable document.

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Himal Southasian