Nepal inching closer to new constitution

 Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala speaks to media
Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala speaks to media

Nepal’s major political parties appeared inching closer to a consensus on the country’s new constitution following an agreement  to set up a national government to cope with the challenges posed by the April 25 devastating earthquake and its aftermath.

Leaders of the Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) [CPN-UML], Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [UCPN-Maoist] and the Madhes-based parties agreed to form a national consensus government so as to revive the constitution-making process and intensify the post-quake reconstruction and rehabilitation work in the Himalayan nation.

In a meeting held at Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s official residence at Baluwatar, the leaders decided to prioritise constitution-drafting over the process of government-formation.

The leaders plan to settle disputes, mainly related to federalism, by Thursday and promulgate the new constitution within the first week of July, informed sources said.

Following the meeting, coordinator of the Madhesi Front Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar pointed to the need for all political parties and people to unite for the Herculean task of reconstruction and resettlement, which is estimated to cost around $5-10 billion and likely take another couple of years to bring the Nepali economy back on track.

Kumar said the political leaders were committed to ensuring that the reconstruction mission was carried out effectively along with a political settlement.

He added that the country should be led by a national consensus government for at least three-to-four years.

Gachchhadar said the leaders would try to finalise the new constitution within the next one month to give the people “an atmosphere of optimism”.

“Let’s bring the opposition parties to the incumbent government if a unity government is to be formed right now,” Nepali Congress leader Purna Bahadur Khadka quoted Prime Minister Koirala as saying in the meeting.

The CPN-UML, however, expressed reservations about the proposal.

“It’s alright if the constitution-writing concludes immediately and the way is cleared for a new government. The NC has no right to continue to remain at the helm on the pretext of the delayed statute-drafting process,” party leader Agni Kharel said.