If all goes according to plan, the new constitution of Nepal – under preparation since 2008 – will now be officially promulgated on September 20 by Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav at a special function. The tiny Himalayan nation, which has grappled with the onerous task for over seven years now, is on road to becoming a pluralistic democracy. The constitution will be democratic and secular.
Success in framing the crucial document eluded the first Constituent Assembly (CA) – elected in 2008 – and it required a second assembly to finally evolve the desired constitution draft, which the three major political parties are now gearing to adopt.
Nepal held the elections to the second Constituent Assembly in November 2013 to bring out a new constitution after the first assembly, elected in 2008, failed to deliver the constitution.
The Nepali Congress of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, ruling ally Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxists-Leninists) and the main opposition United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) together command more than the two-thirds majority in the 601-seat CA that is required to adopt the new document.
Violent protests over the past more than one month have already claimed more than 40 lives and the Madhesi-based political parties and communities have boycotted the ongoing exercise in the Constituent Assembly to approve the new constitution.
In early 2008 Girija Prasad Koirala, the then Prime Minister of Nepal was convinced by the Madhesi agitation to guarantee a federation in Nepal and delimit the seats in the Terai region and the mid-hills proportionate to the population in the region. The Terai region has been hit by violence in recent times after the Constituent Assembly decided to adopt the seven province federation model. The Madhesis feel this would lead to disenfranchisement of the community.
However, despite the protests from the Madhesi parties on the new federal structure and the pro-Hindu National Democratic Party which has been have been championing the cause of making Nepal a Hindu state and protesting about secularism in the constitution, the Constituent Assembly has begun clause by clause voting to promulgate the constitution. It has so far voted on 176 clauses.
“The CA unanimously approved the proposal on fixing the date for the promulgation of the Revised Bill of the Constitution of Nepal, on September 20,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said. “A fully democratic Constitution will be promulgated by the Nepal President Ram BaranYadav at a special function here attended by all the heads of diplomatic missions,” he added.
Reacting to the developments in the Himalayan nation, India and the US have asked Nepal to ensure broad-based support and timely promulgation of the constitution, while urging the Nepal’s security forces to show restraint in responding to protests.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj appreciated Nepal for resolving the contentious issues. “We welcome and commend the recent progress achieved by the Constituent Assembly in the Constitution-drafting process wherein several contentious issues have been resolved,” she said.
“India is concerned over the ongoing protests and strife in several parts of Nepal. Horrific violence has once again shaken Nepal’s soul. Whether the victims are Nepali citizens or government officials, the blood spilt in all the incidents was Nepalese. When Nepal is yet to come out of the tragedy of the earthquake, these developments would hurt any humanitarian country in the world,” she added.
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