The process of amending the Interim Constitution (IC) has been set in motion with the eight political parties directing the government to go ahead. This cleared the decks for the government to table an amendment motion in the interim parliament yesterday to incorporate all the commitments made by PM Girija Prasad Koirala in his two recent addresses to the nation. This is indeed a positive development. They, however, could not agree on certain other points that came up for possible amendment. To sort out these differences, they decided to set up an all-party task force. The PM had made commitments on federalism, the redrawing of the constituencies on the basis of population, and more seats for districts with increased population. In the last session of the restored parliament, which approved the IC and then dissolved itself, the PM had assured MPs who had proposed amendments to the draft interim constitution by saying that the interim legislature could take up the issue later, arguing that immediate adoption of the constitution was necessary to hold the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls on schedule. In this context, the current exercises are but natural.

Ideas for other changes include the creation of opposition benches in Parliament, provisions for the PM to seek the confidence of the House and for his removal, even the provision for deciding on the fate of the monarchy, allowing temporary residents to vote in the CA polls. These should be discussed and sound decisions taken. But some of the suggestions and commitments are those on which only the CA, conceived of as a sovereign body, can finally decide, in that it is not bound by the interim government’s decisions and pledges. Though it is likely that what the eight parties agree on today will get through the CA tomorrow as they as a whole are expected to win a majority in the elected constitution-making body. But there is no guarantee for this, at least in theory.

If the interim government can promise federalism right now, republicans cannot be brushed aside for suggesting a similar amendment regarding the fate of the monarchy. The idea of setting up opposition benches in a House, which is not elected, sounds odd. This is all the more so because this interim government is consensual in nature composed as it is of all major political parties, and at least enjoying the support of all those which had spearheaded Jana Andolan II. Under these circumstances, an artificial opposition will be out of place and therefore unwarranted. However, provisions enabling the parliament to ratify or remove the PM are reasonable enough and indeed necessary. Legislating for the temporary residents’ voting rights is not wrong, provided enough safeguards can be put in place to check double voting. Some of the many suggestions that had surfaced before and after the promulgation of the IC could also be considered to make the IC serve its purpose better. But, much ought not to be made of some inadequacy of a temporary constitution, which will give way to a more permanent one through the CA. Therefore, everybody’s efforts and all roads should now lead to the holding of the CA polls in mid-June.