With just five days in hand before the deadline to promulgate the new constitution, lawmakers from the ruling coalition and some other fringe parties have intensified their campaign to press top leaderships to expedite the constitution-making process.
A group of Constituent Assembly (CA) members led by the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML submitted a list of signatures of at least 413 CA members from the ruling and various other parties to CA Chairman Subas Nembang demanding promulgation of new constitution by January 22.
On behalf of over two-thirds majority of lawmakers, Chairman of Rastriya Janamorcha, Chitra Bahadur KC, submitted the list of signatures to Nembang at the CA hall at New Baneshwar on Friday.
Signatures of lawmakers from NC, UML, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, CPN (ML), Rastriya Janamorcha, CPN (Samyukta), Nepal Family Party, Bahujan Shakti Party, Nepali Janata Dal, Akhanda Nepal Party and Janajagaran Party Nepal were submitted to the CA chairman.
“We, over two-thirds of CA members, hereby submit our signatures suggesting to you to immediately take the constitution-drafting procedures ahead while giving continuity to the efforts to forge consensus simultaneously and to promulgate new constitution by January 22,” read the covering letter attached to the list of signatures.
Also, key leaders from major political forces while airing their views during deliberations in the CA engaged in an intense debate on whether or not to settle the disputes through majority votes and bring new constitution through fast-track procedures in the CA.
NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel speaking at the CA meeting proposed tabling in the CA’s full sitting, separate proposals registered earlier by various political parties for decision and forwarding the one that secures majority to the drafting committee.
“Now, we shouldn’t make any further delay in resolving the disputes from this House and forwarding the proposals to the drafting committee. We can give continuity to negotiations as the task of drafting continues,” said Paudel. “Let’s decide the disputes [through voting] here in this House here and now.” He fiercely criticized UCPN (Maoist) lawmakers for accusing the ruling coalition of “imposing the decision of numerical strength” in the CA.
Paudel urged the opposition parties to accept the universally-established practices of settling disputes through voting when consensus eludes indefinitely. He expressed serious objection that opposition leaders were trying to show that the ruling parties are doing crime by proposing to settle disputes through majority votes. “If everything should be based on past political agreements, what is the point in holding CA elections and what is the role of 601 CA members?” he asked. “The opposition parties’ argument goes against the basic spirit of drafting constitution from a CA.”
Also, UML leader Jhalanath Khanal emphasized settling the disputes through voting and forwarding the proposals to the drafting committee. He urged the opposition parties to accept the universally-accepted practice of resolving disputes through voting when consensus becomes elusive.
“We political parties must agree on certain procedures to move ahead and manage differences when there is a deadlock,” said Khanal. He said that his party is ready to adopt flexibility in negotiations on various agenda items except for two issues. “We are strongly against delineating provinces based on ethnicity and we are against separating the Mountains, Hills and the Tarai while carving out provinces,” he said.
He argued that provinces shouldn’t be differentiated as between mountains, hills and the plains as there are cultural, geographical and social interdependencies among all three regions. Earlier, while presenting the report of the CA’s Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC), UCPN (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai underscored the need for making further efforts to forge consensus saying that the political parties were very close to agreement on various contentious issues.
“Of the four major thorny issues we have already reached an understanding to settle the issues related to electoral and judicial models and we have narrowed down differences over state restructuring and system of governance,” said Bhattarai. “So I urge not to make any decision in haste that would sow the seeds of new conflict.”
As ruling coalition were against taking more time for debates in the CA full House, no lawmaker other than Paudel and Khanal from the NC and UML participated in the deliberations. But a large number of lawmakers from opposition parties registered their names and participated in the debate.