Locus of power

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala assured the public on Friday that in a day or two the conclusive round of peace talks would be held as the SPA and the CPN-Maoist had reached agreement on “all major points, such as the interim monarchy and constituent assembly”. It would be best to settle all issues at the earliest, but a delay of just a few days would not matter much provided that the summit could pull off a breakthrough. Indeed, the informal talks between the establishment and the Maoists that have continued for the past few days were taken up at the highest level on Sunday — Koirala and Maoist chairman Prachanda met to thrash out the remaining points. Top political leaders like Koirala and Nepal have also held meetings with certain high-voltage diplomats, giving rise to speculation.

Prachanda also met CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal on Friday, with Nepal

reportedly stressing that both the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist stick to their understanding that a referendum, along with the CA, should be held to decide the monarchy’s fate. Recently, these two parties and Sher Bahadur Deuba’s NC-D had agreed on it. Koirala is, however, less than enthusiastic. He claimed in Biratnagar on Saturday that a referendum would give the King scope for manoeuvre, raise new issues about the monarchy and could shift public opinion in the King’s favour. Not long ago, he had also argued that the percentage of the votes cast for the monarchy, even if in a minority, could create problems. There is a compelling reason for not holding the CA polls and a simultaneous referendum on the monarchy.

The making of a constitution through a CA means that there are many vital issues to be settled, and the monarchy is just one of them. Concentrating on it alone means giving less importance to other equally important issues. If the people are sovereign and they want to retain the kingship, their will must be respected; the political parties, even taken together, are subordinate to the general will. A simple majority in a referendum would clinch the issue, as is the general practice. True, there can be no unanimity in a referendum. Nor can there be any consensus in the CA, either.

Therefore, it must be made incumbent on the CA to require at least a two-thirds majority to finalise the charter, which is of absolute fundamental importance to the existence and identity of Nepal and the Nepalis. Moreover, it is much easier for vested interests to influence a couple of hundred members of the CA, but it is virtually impossible to do so with the entire electorate. Therefore, the sovereign people’s right to accept or reject the constitution as a whole in a referendum after the CA has drawn it up must remain sacrosanct. This is vital because there would, otherwise, be no guarantee that the elected representatives acted true to the people’s mandate in writing the constitution.