More than three months, only slightly, are on hands to conclude the constituent assembly (CA) elections by mid-June. On the one side, the eight political parties have yet to reach a consensus on certain points, particularly on electoral arrangements, and several poll-related laws have to be rushed through the parliament; on the other side, various groups are on the warpath to push their varied demands based on region, ethnicity, religion, gender, and what not. In the process, some are making their point in a decent manner, while others are using disruptive means â€” calling too frequent or indefinite bandhs and halting transport, sometimes even resorting to violence or threats of violence. The CA polls are emerging the victim. Though it is a positive sign that the parliamentary State Affairs Committee (SAC) on Tuesday decided to clear all CA-related bills without delay, the eight parties are yet to sort out their remaining differences over the electoral arrangements. The delay can prove to be dangerous.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala continues to reiterate his commitment to hold the polls on schedule, but doubts are being expressed about his ability to keep it, given the time available and the preparations still to be made. The chief election commissioner, even Maoist chairman Prachanda in the past few days, and now the UN general secretaryâ€™s special envoy Ian Martin, among others, have voiced their doubts. Martin on Tuesday said that if the political parties could not reach an agreement â€œvery soonâ€, intentions might be questioned. Besides, he cautioned that if Nepal failed to include the â€œtraditionally marginalised groupsâ€ in the peace process, it would lose the big opportunity of harnessing the vision and strength of its own people and at the same time leave some of the causes of the conflict unresolved.
The positive aspect is that there is a national consensus on the issue even though the political parties may differ over the ways of reaching that goal. Various non-party groups are also pressing their demands â€” from reasonable to outrageous. Making oneâ€™s point is one thing, but coming in the way of the CA polls is quite another. The disruptive tactics of some of these groups are being feared to have cast a pall over the CA. In all democratic countries it is the parties which reflect or articulate various interests in society. Therefore, it is for them to strike a balance between and among competing claims. The CA is being held just to write a constitution through an assembly of elected representatives, who will indeed employ experts and seek the views of the public. The main task is, therefore, to make the process as participatory as possible, which an automatic reallocation of the elective seats on parochial basis as being sought by some of the agitating non-party groups cannot guarantee. Many of the demands of these groups are such as can properly be met only through the CA, which faces the prospect of postponement because of such agitations. A protracted interim period will mean a prolongation of uncertainty, with its attendant dangers in the fluid situation of the country.