The day afterWe again urge major parties to reach out to opposing parties and groups
The new constitution has finally been promulgated. The president’s historic announcement in the Constituent Assembly (CA) on Sunday established Nepal as a federal democratic republic. This brings to an end a difficult and protracted political transition that started with the 12-point agreement way back in November 2005. This period saw the underground Maoist party join the political mainstream, the fall of the feudal monarchy, CA elections and, now, finally the constitution written by an elected body—a first for Nepal.
Indeed, the new constitution has its flaws, as we have pointed out repeatedly in our editorials. We are worried that the polarisation seems to have deepened with all Madhes-based parties keeping out of the CA process, including Bijaya Gachhadar’s Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik that had earlier supported the 16-point agreement that helped expedite the stalled constitution project. We have also noted the international community’s response on the new constitution and New Delhi’s lukewarm response to it. Yes, we are deeply disappointed with the three major parties’ failure to take on board the broader sections of the Nepali population ourselves. But Delhi would do well not to be seen as crossing the red line to meet its objective. It could box itself in a difficult position and see it lose its diplomatic leverage against certain parties and sections of the polarized society.
Nepali actors have their task cut out. The major parties need to urgently reach out to the disgruntled parties and groups and do all they can to regain their confidence. The Madhesi and Tharu groups have made their discontent clear through protests that continue to take place across the Tarai.
The disenchantment against the political class runs beyond the minority communities. There are vast numbers of people in the earthquake-affected regions who remain more concerned about their livelihood and safety than the constitution.
On the day the constitution was promulgated, this group of people probably paid more attention to another bit of news: two of the major parties—CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist)—had scuppered the reconstruction bill in Parliament, thus causing yet another indefinite delay to the reconstruction effort. While some people applauded the ability of the politicians to come to a compromise on the constitution, others are more concerned with the utter irresponsibility these same politicians have continued to demonstrate with regard to people who have been affected by the earthquake.
It is clear that the two major parties deliberately stalled the formation of the Reconstruction Authority. These parties expect that they will soon come to power, and believe that they can take advantage of the reconstruction process to benefit themselves once that happens. They are much keener to see the election of KP Oli as prime minister and the formation of a new government before dealing with the reconstruction money. Within the Maoist party, there is a long queue of senior leaders who want to become ministers in the new government. It is likely that a situation will be created where Govinda Pokharel will no longer be able to continue as CEO of the Reconstruction Authority.
Not for the first time, a major reconstruction process has become a victim of the severe politicisation. In fact, the effect has been even worse than was initially expected. Many people thought that the parties would compete to gain access to the reconstruction money once it arrived and then siphon off large sums for their own benefit. But the competition has been so intense that the parties have not even been able to agree on arrangements enabling them to receive the $4 billion pledged by donors. This has led to paralysis, and not a single dollar of the pledged money has been received almost three months after the quake. And rubbing salt into the victims’ wounds, the government seems intent on preventing nongovernmental organisations from providing reconstruction support as well. It hardly needs to be said that the actions of the parties are a dire dereliction of duty. If the reconstruction bill cannot be passed soon, immediate steps need to be taken to ensure alternative arrangements to start the reconstruction process.