Challenges Ahead for CA Polls
By Somnath Ghimire
Nepal is edging through the long process of normalization and reform, following a 10-year Maoist declared "People's War", which cost more than 12,000 lives. Now the Maoists are part of the peace process and a constituent assembly will be elected in November 22 to design Nepal's future democratic constitution. But the CA elections could be derailed by a number of factors, including the lingering influence of a king who still dreams of a return to feudal absolutism and, crucially, the willingness of Army Chief, Rukmand Katuwal to lead his army into a democratic future. The Eight Party alliance must move cautiously and united with a single agenda now to hold the CA elections on time. Let us not make the CA elections an individual party's agenda; this is our agenda, the people's agenda. We are in the process of making a "New Constitution" of Nepal, which will sort out all political issues and empower Nepali citizens.
After a "spontaneous and unprecedented" uprising in Nepal in April 2006, King Gyanendra was reduced to the status of a figurehead, providing the people of Nepal a historic opportunity to "get rid of the monarchy" and establish a true, genuine, and people-centered democratic order i.e. a republic state with federalism.
Yet elections for the constituent assembly, which were supposed to occur in June, have already been pushed back to November 22. "Cultural mistrust" aboundsó"nobody is confident" that the elections will actually occur. If the elections don't take place in November, it will be "disastrous" for Nepal and its future as a democratic state. Let us be united to hold the Nov 22 CA elections.
Nepal's transformation is dependent on a credible peace process. Although the Maoists declared a cease fire on June 2006, they continue to use intimidation, violence and extortion. The upcoming elections offer the Maoists an opportunity to transform themselves into a responsible political party.
The CA elections must be held in November, then the new constituent assembly will have two years to create and adopt a new constitution. The constitution should ensure: a republican state, a democratically accountable military, inclusiveness, human rights, an effective judiciary and a federalist structure.
Considering Nepal's history, a king and a democratic assembly cannot coexist. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1990s, such an experiment failed, and the king used his traditional authority to dismantle the constitution. Instead, Nepal's new constitution should call for a democratically elected head of state, which will make nepali citizens sovereign. We cannot accept that some people are born superior to others, with a natural right to rule.
The constitution should also guarantee that the military is accountable to the democratically elected assembly. The military has to be restructured so that it is more professional and politically neutral, and so that it doesn't dismantle the democratic process. We want more "inclusive, broad-based" participation in the democratic process. Exclusion is the biggest issue in Nepal and the process of developing a new constitution should seek to empower indigenous, dalits & marginalized groups. Broadly defined human rights, ranging from prototypical civil and political rights to economic, social and cultural human rights and protection of the environment should all be included in the new constitution. Human rights should be a kind of lighthouse, or central theme of the new constitution.
The new constitution should define the judiciary as the guardian or protector of the supremacy of the constitution, so that it cannot be as easily dismantled as Nepalese constitutions have been in recent history.
The new constitution must create a federal state. Many would not think of Nepal as requiring a federalist structure because it's relatively small, but federalism is a matter of diversity, not size. Nepal is much diversified, and needs federalism to create local autonomy and ensure better access to resources.
We need to be very careful that there is credence to concerns about Monarchists and Maoists during this democratic transformation. There is
cause for serious doubt that the king and the military will accept a legitimate democratic transformation. And there is some evidence that the
military did not fight wholeheartedly against the Maoist insurgency, bringing into question the Maoists' commitment to participating as a democratically elected political party.
With these concerns, international support and pressure, especially in the form of media and civil society presence, are crucial to Nepal's current democratic transformation. Nepal got an opportunity to become a "new model" for legitimate democratic transformation. The behavior of monarchists and Maoists and the involvement of the international community will largely determine the success of Nepal's push for a democratically elected constituent assembly and its drafting of a new constitution.
On behalf of the North America Nepali Community, I urge the leaders of the Eight Parties to strengthen their unity and build an election atmosphere across the country to conduct CA elections fairly and peacefully. This is not the time to blame and quarrel each-other, leave your petty and self interests aside and work for the people's interest.
(Somnath Ghimire is President, NSU USA & Canada Chapter)
Posted on: 2007-08-01 09:23:02
Challenges Ahead for CA Polls
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