CA election : Its implications and future challenges
The “unexpected” result of the Constituent Assembly (CA) election has given rise to despair in some political quarters in the country. But many others contend that shifting mindset of voters in recent years and millions of first-time voters had a considerable influence on the final results. But with voters not allowed to vote freely, their absence owing to change of their residence, millions out of the country and unsuitability of electoral system, the keen observers were not at all surprised at the electoral outcome.
The final results have both negative and positive implications. On the negative side, it could not give majority to any one party in CA, resulting in a hung house. But positively, the parties have been forced to form a coalition and cooperate with each other in the CA. Interestingly, the political parties apparently contested election as parliamentary polls, whereas voters gave their verdict keeping in mind the nature of CA, where only consensus among parties matters.
The result has put the Maoists in a comparable position to which Nepali Congress found itself in the legislature-parliament by virtue of its strength. Since two-third majority was not possible without participation of NC in the House of 330 members, in the CA too, two-third majority can never be ensured without the participation of the Maoists with 220 elected members against the elected 575 seats in the House. It can block any crucial legislative move in the House, which goes against the spirit of Interim Constitution that favours consensus in the CA for the approval of the preamble and all articles of the constitution. It may affect the appointment and removal of any future Prime Minster, in addition to having a big impact on many other significant issues.
The CA has many challenges. It will be a legislature parliament, which can be termed Provisional Parliament (PP) too. Its life as a PP is longer than its life as a CA since it will operate till another parliamentary election takes place within the time-frame stipulated in the new constitution. The functions of the two houses will be different. The Interim Constitution (IC) has provided for the same person to act as Chairman and vice-chairman of the CA and another as Speaker and deputy speaker in the PP. To distinguish one House from another, it will be advisable to have different members to chair the two Houses by amending the Interim Constitution. The speaker/deputy speaker will chair the meetings of the PP and the Chairman/Vice-chairman will chair the CA. It will bring clear division in the working of the two Houses with the same members.
Since the Election Commission has already made the results public, the CA will have its first meeting within 21 days, i.e., by May 29. Some crucial issues like formation of a new government, nomination of 26 persons to the CA etc. can be solved amicably provided the political parties treat this House as CA and not a PP. In any parliamentary practice, a new government is formed first and then the new elected House is summoned. Since this is a CA, it is not necessary to follow the customary parliamentary practice. Of course, a new government can be formed with consensus reached among the political parties, as the political situation in Nepal is not normal.
Actually, the CA has been elected as a compromise between the former rebels in Maoists and the mainstream seven-party alliance to resolve the armed conflict. Election to CA is only a part of the entire peace process that was started with the declaration of the ceasefire consequent to the people’s movement in April, 2006. The peace process proceeded further with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in November, 2006.
In the peace process, the Maoists (as insurgents), and the government, are two parties. Commitments made by them through several agreements regarding the issues of two armies, management of Maoist combatants living in barracks, formation of commissions like National Commission for Peace and Reconstruction, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Commission on Restructuring of the State, Commissions on disappearances, scientific land reforms etc have not been attended to thus far.
And hardly any relief has been provided to victims of various kinds of injustices. Properties have not been returned to the owners. Consensus is awaited on the bill regarding Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as a section of people want insurgents to be punished for their crimes, whereas another section wants them to be exonerated of all their wrongdoing.
Such critical issues might be dealt with differently if the Maoists have the upper hand in the future administration. If decisions on these vital issues are not taken immediately, people will remain fearful of the prospect of peace process getting seriously jeopardised in a not
too distant future.
Mishra is ex-election commissioner