Arbiter of all disputes

It took the political parties two and a half months after the election to the Constituent Assembly and four weeks after the convening of its first meeting to realise that the CA should play its full role in settling all political disputes. It is perfectly right for the parties to try to resolve their differences on the sidelines of the CA meetings, but they will be showing a

lack of respect for the sovereign body by undermining its role because of their rows. The SPA has now sorted out almost all of its constituents’ major differences, reaching a 21-point accord yesterday for constitutional amendment. However, unresolved are the questions of allocation of the post of President and of whether the Opposition should have a representative in the National Defence Council. The new accord addresses, among other things, the election of the top posts of the executive and the legislature by letting the House decide it.

For the first time since the peace process formally began, the politics of consensus seems to be giving way to the politics of majority and minority. Over a power-sharing disagreement, the second largest party has virtually decided to stay out of the next government. Sadly, for whatever reasons, the political parties are giving greater priority to posts than to the need for consensus for another two years, the time allotted for making a new constitution. This problem has arisen partly due to the failure of the political parties to adjust easily to the new numerical rankings in the CA the people have given them. Theoretically, at least, there is

still time for them to salvage the consensual approach. What should, however, be remembered is that the CA has a double role — both as parliament and constitution-making body.

If a party chooses not to join the government, it may be said to be in opposition. But there can be no opposition party in constitution-making, which is a collaborative effort. Indeed, the three biggest parties have said that they will cooperate in completing the process of constitution-making, irrespective of their participation in power. Cooperation can come from outside the government, too, as the small Bhaktapur-based NWPP, one of the SPA constituents, has done during the interim period. However, in the latest case, it must be admitted that the threat of going into opposition looms over a serious power-sharing difference. But the most important thing is that the process of governance and constitution-making should not be delayed just because the political parties squabble, say, over posts. The activation of the CA is the right, but belated, decision, because it is the arbiter of all disputes with the full sanction of the sovereign Nepali people. There is also the need for change in the concept of the seven-party alliance in favour of a broader alliance, to take into account the emergent political parties in the CA. Anyway, even in parliament, opposition role cannot be construed as in normal times. There will have to be a greater degree of cooperation. The distribution of 26 nominated CA members among political parties largely according to their seats is a pointer in that direction.