Two major political developments of this week, holding an all-party roundtable meeting and extending the tenure of Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDDC) for indefinite period, are likely to have long political implications.
Last week, leaders of Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist agreed to convene the all-party roundtable meeting as demanded by CPN-Maoist. Although the leaders of three parties have made it clear that the roundtable meeting cannot impose its will to elected CA, holding the roundtable meeting to discuss the constitution challenges the legitimacy of CA.
However, political parties are yet to agree on the modality for the roundtable meeting and criteria for the participation as there are over 100 political parties outside the CA and CPN-Maoist alone represents 34 rag and tag allies.
As CPN-Maoist led alliance has been opposing the election of CA as illegitimate, the agreement is the first jolt against the legitimacy of the Constituent Assembly. The decision taken by major political parties to extend the tenure of Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDDC) is another political move to devalue the CA.
"Sky will not fall in case of amending the calendar of operation of Constituent Assembly," thundered UCPN-Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda arguing with leaders of other parties in the CA on the issue of amending the calendar of operation. “ We need a constitution acceptable to all political forces in Nepal, including CPN-Maoist. If we can bring a constitution acceptable to all by extending the date by some more days, what is the harm?,” said Prachanda.
As per the calendar of operations of CA, September 6 was the last day to finalize the draft and send it to CA for discussions. As political parties failed to finalize the constitution, they negotiated a middle path. The parties declined to amend the CA Rules but decided to give one more chance to Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) headed by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai to forge consensus.
As per the agreement, major parties at the CPDCC meeting and 3-party meeting took a decision not to amend the Rule and also decided not to send the disputed issues to voting at the CA for the time being.
“The CPDCC will not send the proposals to CA and CA will send back the disputed issues to CPDCC for resolution with specific time limit as per the rule 84(3) of the CA Rules. After discussing the issues at the full house of the CA, these unsettled issues will be sent back to the CPDCC without voting," said Minister and leader of Nepali Congress Mahesh Acharya.
“The CPDCC has settled many issues and is yet to settle some others. The issue that are yet to be settled cannot be listed as unsettled as they are under discussions. The CPDCC will write in its report to the full House of the CA that it could not settle the issues due to shortage of time. I hope, the CA will give the CPDCC the responsibility of handling the yet to be settled issues again," said Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, chairman of the committee.
The decision to hold all party roundtable meeting will also create a political chaos. Although CPN-Maoist failed to postpone November polls even by opposing them violently, the acceptance to hold the roundtable meeting is a major gain for them.
As there is no sign for a breakthrough immediately, the CPDCC’s life is likely to prolong, pushing the constitution writing process into uncertainty. As prime minister Sushil Koirala is heading to New York next week for two weeks and the festive season of Dashain and Dipawali is approaching, it is likely that the constitution writing process will delayed.
There is likely to be a political chaos as CPN-Maoist will take the recent agreement as victory to make their militant cadres more aggressive. CPN-Maoist will also challenge the legitimacy in the next stage as it has already made it clear that they will capture the streets. Along with CPN-Maoist, UCPN-Maoist has made a major political gain against Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. This also opens the way for certain level of understanding between CPN-Maoist and UCPN-Maoist.