KESHAV P. KOIRALA
KATHMANDU: In a televised address to the nation when the clock was about to strike 00:00 am of Monday, May 28, Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai on Sunday midnight announced that the Constituent Assembly, elected in 2008, exists no more and that fresh elections will be held on November 22 to elect a new Constituent Assembly.
Also one of the vice chairmen of UCPN-Maoist, Dr. Bhattarai started addressing the nation from his official residence in Baluwatar soon after briefing President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav about the Cabinet’s decision to hold fresh polls of CA. He maintained that the fresh election was one of the options suggested by the Supreme Court in case the new constitution could not be promulgated. As the CA would be automatically dissolved after failing to promulgate the new constitution this midnight, he said, the Cabinet decided to go for new elections.
Flanked by senior ministers in his Cabinet, most of them of parties of United Democratic Madhesi Front, Dr. Bhattarai held the old parlimentary parties responsible for the situation, saying agreement on federalism could not be built up as the parties could never embrace it. He claimed that the constitution could not be made as federalism was not their issue and were showing lipservice because of obligation.
Announcing the date of fresh elections, he asked all the political parties to go to the elections with their agendas. “People will again decide who is for federalism and change.”
"Without getting to hold discussion there, the Constituent Assembly has been brought to an end. This is a matter of great sadness," he said.
"Though we have been unsuccessful now, the Nepali people will adjugde us appropriately. I don't think that it is appropriate to blame anybody because we don't have a situation to move ahead without a political agreement."
Without mentioning any name, he, however, charged that status quoist forces were reluctant to embrace the people’s aspiration for change and building a republican, federal and progressive state and constitution. “But we sensed their intention to dissolve the Constituent Assembly in one way or the other and drop the people’s achievements by buying time, preventing any agreement and procedure.”
He claimed that the coalition government of his party and United Democratic Madhesi Front formed nine months ago worked keeping peace process and constitution-drafting on focus, and the UCPN-Maoist unilaterally took a big risk to complete the army integration which was the most crucial part of peace process.
After that, he said, we time and again held talks to build agreement on issues related to constitution. “What we had expected was advancement in the tasks of constitution after the completion of peace process,” he stated. “But that turned out to be excuses.”
Following the address, he answered some questions asked by the media personnel. Responding to a question, he claimed that the parties have been protesting the decision for the fresh elections for public consumption only.
He claimed that efforts were made to save the CA but they did not fruit. "Thus, there was no alternative to the fresh elections."
Earlier, he urged the people not to lose their hopes in the wake of dissolution of CA. “Let’s move ahead learning a lesson from failure. The spirit of democracy is taking people’s mandate. Though constitution could not be made from Constituent Assembly this time, we have decided to go to take fresh mandate from the people on Mangsir 7 (November 22).
To a question that referred to the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led Cabinet's decision to sack the then army chief and his subsequesnt reinstatement by President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, he said he thinks there will not been be any clash between him and the president over the decision for fresh elections as the prime minister was the executive head and entertains the executive power as per the Interim Constitution.
Earlier in the evening after the talks failed to build an agreement on disputed issues, the parties had mulled over whether to declare the state of emergency and extend the CA term by some months or go for the fresh elections.
The Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have charged that the Maoists unilaterlly decided to go for elections with an intent to take over the state. Protesting the prime minister's proposal on fresh elections, the CPN-UML and Rastriya Janashakti Party ministers walked out of the Cabinet meeting.
Originally elected for two years in 2008 and having its term repeatedly extended till today for the last time, the CA was automatically dissolved for failing to meet its final deadline at Sunday midnight. The major parties had irrevocable differences over issues related to state-restructuring including their names, number and boundaries.