The end came swiftly after four years of agony and frustrations. But it won’t be a surprise to many, because a lot of people didn’t believe the political leadership was capable of delivering a new constitution.
All efforts to forge consensus went down the drain and the historic Constituent Assembly collapsed shortly before the midnight. Most disillusioned were the CA members, who became part of one of the most inclusive parliaments in the world, but were not allowed any responsibility when it mattered most.
Blame game will begin, but the people who must take responsibility are the top leaders of the four major political groups, who hijacked discussions about the constitution away from the CA. The demise of the current CA will weaken the legitimacy of UCPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai within the Maoist party; it will question qualities of leadership in NC and UML; and bring new forces to the fore.
Failure of the political parties all these years, not just in areas of handling the peace process and writing of a new constitution but also in the case of maintaining good governance, has brought complicated problems to the fore. Today, chances of ethnic/communal discord have heightened and the society has been polarised. While the political parties brace themselves for the fresh elections on November 22, it should be stressed that they do their best to check communal disharmony. The political leadership must seek ways to address the issues in a way that will be acceptable to all the stakeholders.
The people must see election as a regular event, for the dreams for a new constitution are not yet dead, and election should periodically be held every four or five years. New election is an opportunity to regain trust of the people, promote ownership of the new constitution and adopt a decision-making process acceptable to all. Under the given circumstances, fresh election is the best option to tackle the differences that could pose a threat to communal harmony and national solidarity.
Still there are challenges. The government holding the election must still uphold democratic values and be accountable to the people. It would be ideal to have an all-party government for the election, in order to make sure that the parties in power do not misuse the state resources and machinery to affect electoral results.
The achievements of the 2006 movement will not die, but the political forces should be sensitive in carrying these values forward. Election is an opportunity, not a liability and political parties must once again seek to test themselves in the people’s court.
(This appeared on the front page of The Himalayan Times)