Nepal once again finds itself in the throes of instability after its political parties failed to agree on the country’s constitution, missing two deadlines with the second one passing by on January 22, 2015.
The descent into uncertainty and chaos is highly unfortunate because that is the last thing that the fledgling Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal would want to find itself in.
With the years passing by since the end of the civil war in 2006 and the consequent abolition of monarchy, the delay in hammering out a constitution is making the possibility of an agreement that much more complicated.
It is beyond one’s comprehension why the various political parties are unable to sit together and come to an agreement on a draft constitution. There are knotty issues that need to be smoothened, like for example the manner in which the country should be demarcated internally into provinces.
The ruling coalition comprising the Nepali Congress and the Marxist-Leninists want a division based on administrative considerations while the opposition Maoists along with other community-based parties prefer boundaries based on ethnicity. The ruling parties fear that this could sow the seeds of disintegration.
Despite several rounds of discussion the various parties are unable to arrive at a consensus. So too the issues regarding the form of government, whether presidential or parliamentary and the nature of elections – whether first past the post or proportional representation.
While each political party, whichever stand it takes, has its own justifiable reason to hold on to it, one would have logically expected that a compromise would have been found and a tentative agreement presented to the people. The political establishment, as a whole, is unable to see beyond its differences.
The inordinate delay is kicking up fresh problems. A section of the citizenry which never lost its love for the king is now gathering courage to seek a return to monarchy. Also, Hindu-centric political parties are now asking that Nepal should be a Hindu state which it was under the monarchy.
While these developments are still new and not major factors to be reckoned with at the moment, continued delay in coming up with a draft secular republican constitution is opening the space for some to regress into the past.
Those involved in framing the constitution should look at the experiences of countries like South Africa which came up with a highly evolved constitution post the apartheid era and maybe even take a peek at Nepal’s large friendly neighbour India which more than six decades ago managed to frame a constitution under difficult circumstances and which has held good to this day.