In a major step forward that could spur the adoption of a new constitution by Nepal, the four major political parties of the Himalayan state have reached a landmark deal to divide the country into six provinces, with each sharing a border with India, the country’s largest trading partner and source of foreign investment.
After months of intense negotiations and hurdles faced on the contentious issue of federalism, the four major parties broke the deadlock on the issue over the weekend. Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala lauded the crucial development that has resolved a major divisive issue in the way of the adoption of a new federal constitution. “A constitution with federalism and demarcation has been ensured,” Mr Koirala tweeted. “I call on everyone to not be stuck on minor disagreements and work to build and develop the country”, he added.
The Constitutional-Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) of the Constituent Assembly finally signed an agreement to carve out the six federal units. Further progress was made on another contentious issue regarding citizenship where children could acquire citizenship in the name of either mother or father, according to Deputy Prime Minister Prakash Man Singh.
“Although we have some reservations in certain clauses of the proposed constitution, we will fully abide by the agreement,” said Dinanath Sharma, spokesperson of the UCPN-Maoist. A key Madhesi party, MRPF- Democratic, and the UCPN-Maoists have signed the agreement with a few riders. The parties are yet to agree on the names of the federal units which are expected to be discussed later.
As per the new provision, the Upper House would now have 51 members each, whereby each province would send eight members and the remaining three members will be nominated by the President. Among the eight members per province, three would be women, one would be Dalit and one would be a differently-abled person or belong to a minority group.
The parties, however, failed to garner consensus on the contentious issue of secularism with divisions still very strong among the parties. But with the major issue of federalism resolved, the new constitution is expected by the end of August, as the deal paves way for a new statute, said Krishna Prasad Sitaula of the Nepali Congress.
Some smaller parties are not fully on board, and suspect an agenda behind the new plan to demarcate provinces. “This is a new ploy by the political elites from the hills to continue to subjugate Madhes. We will strongly protest this state demarcation,” said Rajendra Mahato, a senior Madhesi leader.
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