Power-sharing row could stymie efforts to draft new Nepal constitution

Source:Xinhua Published: 2014-1-13 15:17:51

After the government has fixed the date of the first meeting of the new Constituent Assembly (CA), a power-sharing dispute among the major political parties could become another stumbling block to the drafting of a new constitution for this landlocked Himalayan country.

But the major parties -- Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, and UCPN (Maoist) -- have held informal parleys to seek an amicable power-sharing scheme in order not the repeat the mistakes in the past. The three parties secured first, second and third largest party respectively.

The first meeting of the newly-constituted CA is scheduled on January 22.

It took more than five years for the major parties to form a new government after the first CA election in 2008 and there is fear at political circles that the same situation could happen again.

After emerging as a largest party from the November 19 CA elections, NC, a centrist party, has staked a claim to the leadership of the government that will replace the incumbent government led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi.

The CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) are not against the NC-led government but they are raising the issue of balanced power- sharing. The UML proposed to change the president elected in 2008 from NC's quota, while UCPN (Maoist) is demanding the vital positions inside the CA such as chairman and vice chairman of the body.

But the NC is reluctant to change the head of state until the promulgation of new constitution within a year. The position of NC is that the post of the head of the state should not be subjected to political bargaining.

The UML said it was willing to back an NC-led government if NC agrees to change the head of the state. UML wants to make an alliance with NC to keep the UCPN (Maoist) outside of the power base.

But the NC is of the view that it should maintain a balance relationship with the second and third largest party in the CA in order to speed up the drafting of the much-delayed constitution for the country.

After the UML demanded for a change of president, the NC is now tilting towards Maoist party in the government formation.

The Maoist, on the other hand, wants to back NC-led government to minimize the role of UML in the government and constitution drafting process. "We are ready to support NC in the government formation with a condition that it should work for the promulgation of a new constitution within a year," said Maoist leader Haribol Gajurel.

In the past, frequent government changes hampered the process of drafting a constitution and the formation of government.

In theory, the issue of constitution drafting and government formation are two different processes and should not affect each other. But in practice, power wrangling among political parties that have separate agendas had seriously hampered the constitution drafting process.

After the 2008 CA election, Nepal had five governments which resulted in the delay of the constitution drafting process. Again because of political wrangling, the CA was dissolved last year without a new constitution in place, thus creating a constitutional and political crisis in the country.

From 2008-2013, the UCPN (Maoist), then the largest party, led the government twice while the third largest party, the CPN-UML, also led the government twice. The NC, now largest party and then second largest party, has so far been denied the opportunity to form a government. So the NC is now given the chance to lead the government and spearhead the drafting of new charter for Nepal.

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