Special session Implications of the resolutions
The process of constituent assembly election is paralysed for want of a constitutional amendment.
The special session of the Legislature-Parliament succeeded in passing two resolutions advising the government to get the country declared a republic and adopt full Proportional Representation (PR) system for the Constituent Assembly (CA) election replacing mixed electoral system accepted in the interim constitution (IC). These resolutions can be implemented only through amendments in the Interim Constitution (IC) by the two-thirds majority, a tedious task ahead.
The fragile peace process appears to have received a jolt by the resolutions, as hitherto, all critical issues getting solved through consensus within the seven-party alliance (SPA), were dragged to parliament where the game of number prevailed, whether it might require a simple majority or two-thirds majority depending on the issue involved. It seems that the political steps taken by the Maoists to raise these issues in parliament were warranted either by their tactical move or by the compelling internal ongoing struggle for supremacy in the party hierarchy or as a natural course of political polarisation.
One clearly feels that the resolutions passed barely by the majority votes put five alternatives before the PM to act. First, the advice of the House has to be implemented by the government preserving the unity of the SPA after amending the constitution by two-thirds majority ensuring the support of his party. Secondly, the government can bring the motion of amendment without soliciting the support of the Nepali Congress (NC) letting the amendment motion fail for want of two-thirds majority.
Thirdly, the PM keeps silent, as he cannot go beyond the approval of the NC’s Mahasamiti, its highest organisational body and let other parties take initiatives for changing the government led by Koirala, for which again two-thirds majority is required which is not possible without the participation of the NC. This will lead to a greater confusion. Fourthly, the PM resigns immediately to facilitate the formation of a new government. Again, the new government cannot succeed in getting the amendments passed without the support of the NC and the stalemate continues plunging the peace process into darkness.
Lastly, the PM takes the initiative in the SPA to come to a consensus regarding these two resolutions and gets modified amendments passed to suit all, breaking the deadlock that may provide for constitutional basis for conducting the CA polls. The process of election is paralysed for want of amendments in the constitution. In turn, it will also facilitate the peace process to march ahead. Since the regular session is to commence in a few days there is enough time to sort out the differences between the NC and other parties in the SPA on these two issues.
These resolutions have some pressures that force the government to act accordingly. Constitutionally, it advises the government to introduce such amendments that are required to facilitate the implementation. If it fails or declines to do so, it may appear to be insensitive to the decisions of the House. Politically, it puts pressure on the PM to do what he or his party cannot do by overriding the decision of the Mahasamiti. By sticking to the present provisions of the IC, the PM may not bring any amendment in the House. But really, it has brought discomfiture to the PM as the Maoists, the CPN-UML and other fringe left parties joined hands together deliberately to get the resolutions passed knowing that no amendment could be passed without the support of the NC.
It is, therefore, obvious that they have put the NC in an embarrassing situation politically. There is a strategic pressure also that tries to isolate the NC from its other partners depicting it as a party that is anti-republic and reluctant to provide proper representation to other segments of society in the CA. People sometimes talk of moral pressure too. Although, it does not have any legal or constitutional binding to force the government to act in accordance with the resolutions, it creates a kind of false notion that the decisions of the House are ignored by the government and it has no moral right to continue any more.
Since amendments are essential to conduct polls, the vital issue regarding the total number of the seats for the CA election has to be debated and incorporated in the constitution. If PR list system has to be accepted alone, there is hardly any need for 240 seats meant for first-past -the- post system, a component under mixed system, which is to be discarded. By reducing the total number of seats to 257, the elected CA will be a compact house in itself and conducting the election will also be easy and less expensive. In case the total number is not reduced, it should be increased to get many other segments represented in the House for whom no provisions have been made in the IC. There is absolutely no justification for keeping 240 seats intact that are meant for the component getting discarded.
Prof Mishra is ex-election commissioner