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The present Constitution entered its 16th year yesterday. As before, it was marked with a national public holiday, a message from the King and statements from the leaders of the political parties, followed by a number of programmes and illumination in government buildings at night. But, ironically, the country has been without a parliament and an elected government for the past three years, as well as without the elected local bodies. That means the country has not been governed under a constitutional process during the period; it has been under the disputed jurisdiction of Article 127; and for more than these nine months, under a government headed by the constitutional monarch. The elected government was sacked for its failure to hold the promised elections within the constitutionally stipulated six months, but unfortunately, no elections have taken place in another 36 months. Of course, promises have been there.

Therefore, any celebration of Constitution Day would sound odd and hypocritical at a time when the Constitution itself has been inoperative in its fundamental parts. However, unless pronounced dead, it has to be regarded as alive, however critical the condition may be. As the 1990 Constitution epitomises the fruits of the 30-year-long difficult pro-democracy struggle that culminated in the historic people’s movement in 1990, every Nepali should observe this day, in the present difficult cicumstances, as a day of resolve to restore these achievements, and strengthen and broaden them further to meet the emerging popular demands. The present constitutional crisis is due to the tendency to violate the Constitution to suit personal convenience or for self-aggrandisement.

King Gyanendra, in his message, has reiterated his earlier call that all Nepalis should make ‘patriotism’ their focal point, which, according to him, is vital to peace, which, in turn, is essential for reactivating a ‘representative polity’. The political parties and the Maoists too, for example, have stressed patriotism. The problem is: Who will therefore sit in judgement? On their part, leaders of the major political parties have held the February 1 royal step responsible for the present defilement of the Constitution. The number of people in support of a new constitution has also sharply grown in the country, particulary during the past three years. However, nobody—neither the King nor the political parties nor the Maoists—has the authority to trash the Constitution; but any new constitution, to be valid and lasting, has to be acceptable to the majority of the sovereign people of Nepal.