It has become the hallmark of political horse-trading in Nepal that the protagonists put the cart before the horse. It happens over and over again, just after the people have taken tremendous risks to reassert their trust in the democratic polity in 1990, 2006, 2008 or 2014 the honourable members of the elected House proceed to fritter it all away.
It is happening again. At a time when the political parties and CA members should be working overtime to finish writing the constitution in eight months time, they are taking to the streets to free cronies in the guise of тАШstudentsтАЩ who were caught red-handed with weapons in a taxi at 3AM on the streets of Kathmandu.
When they should be debating state structure, type of government, election rules, justice in wartime atrocities, and citizenship they are busy haggling over who should take credit for promulgating the new constitution. Write the damn thing first!
Because the last Constituent Assembly ran aground largely over procedural issues werenтАЩt sorted out beforehand, this time the parties in their wisdom decided that they should first agree on the rules. Oh boy, did they underestimate their ability to find solutions.
Four months after elections, the committee set up to draft rules of the House is deadlocked and its term has been extended twice. The committee has decided to send the matter тАШupstairsтАЩ for a political resolution. Needless to say, these prolonged gridlocks have once more spread disillusionment and hopelessness among the voters who showed up in large numbers last November to elect this body.
The stalemate in the rules drafting committee concerns issues like whether it should be the President or the CA Chairman who should тАШcertifyтАЩ the new constitution, whether or not cross-party caucuses can be formed, and if party whips should take effect during CA debates.
As expected the parties are divided according to perceived advantage certain rules would give them. The most egregious disagreement is between the NC and the UML over who should formally authenticate the new constitution with the NC insisting that it is President Ram Baran YadavтАЩs job, while the UML wants its very own House Chair Subhas Nembang to be the one. It is hard to believe that this is such an intractable problem that it needs weeks and weeks to resolve.
The disagreement over the formation of caucuses of women, Dalit or Janajati members is slightly less whimsical. Here, the NC and the UML are on the same side, and it is the UCPN (Maoist), Madhesi and smaller parties who are for caucuses: not for any grand ideological reason but because cross-party alliances would weaken the two main parties. The NC and UML are also in favour of parties being allowed to issue whips to CA members to vote along party lines. The UCPN (M), quite hypocritically, says no whips because its members vote en masse anyway.
There was much hope that Sushil Koirala was a behind-the-scenes consensus builder. He is supposed to be clean and has no hidden agenda besides the protection of democracy. But three weeks after being sworn in and one foreign junket later, the man is being defied by dissidents within his own party and openly disparaged by the UML and the opposition.
He seems to be in no particular hurry to nominate the remaining 26 members of the CA who are supposed to be lawyers, demographers, or social scientists in order to complement the technical expertise needed in the CA to write a proper democratic constitution. Koirala possibly doesnтАЩt want to open that can of worms because it will lead to another bout of CA members being bought and sold.
ItтАЩs time the Prime Minister showed statesmanship, hitched the horse to the front of the cart, and started cracking the whip.