In a major breakthrough, four major political parties—Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik—sealed a 16-point deal on the key contentious issues including federalism on Monday night, paving the way for promulgating a new constitution.
The deal signed by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and MJF-L Chairman Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar states that the country shall be federated into eight provinces on the basis of economic viability and identity. Two key components of federal states—names and delineation—remain unsettled, though. According to the deal, the government will form a commission with a six-month mandate to finalise the demarcation of federal units.
As per the commission’s suggestions, the incumbent Constituent Assembly which will be transformed into Parliament after constitution promulgation will take a final decision on the borders by a two-thirds majority. Provincial assemblies will name the states which needs the support of two-thirds members. Numbers, names and demarcation have been key disputed issues among the major parties since the first CA. A high-level state restructuring commission formed in 2012 had failed to give an all-accepted solution.
On the forms of government, the parties have agreed to go for a parliamentary system. The Maoists have registered a note of dissent on the parliamentary system but will allow constitution promulgation. The party is in favour of the presidential system. There will be bicameral parliament at the Centre and unicameral parliament in the provinces. It was also agreed that the size of the lower house would be 275 while 45 members will be in the upper house. The parties have agreed to cut the number of electoral constituencies to 165 from the current 240 for the first-past-the-post system.
On judiciary, the parties have agreed to continue the current set-up along with forming a Constitutional Court (CC). The CC would look after the cases such as disputes on demarcation and powers between the Centre and the provinces, among provinces and between provinces and local bodies. Regarding the electoral system, the parties have agreed to adopt the mixed model: 60 percent F-P-T-P and 40 percent proportional representation. The UCPN (Maoist) has demanded allocation of 10 percent seats for the workers and marginalized communities in Parliament through the electoral system but the NC and UML did not agree.
The cross-party agreement, however, remains silent about time-table of promulgation of constitution and formation of national unity government. After the agreement, top leaders of the major parties refused to speak with media persons neither the media was allowed to take pictures of leaders signing the deal. Chief whips of three major parties later briefed the media about the deal.
The deal has drawn criticism from Madhes-based parties as well as some top leaders of the ruling parties. NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel and senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal objected to the deal, saying that the country cannot sustain eight provinces. Due to the criticism, the top leaders avoided the press.
Speaking briefly with the press, UML Chairman KP Oli said a new constitution will be promulgated within mid-July, adopting a fast-track approach. UCPN (Maoist) Vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha said though there are still some challenges, the agreement has paved the way for the promulgation of new constitution.
With Monday’s deal, the CA will direct the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee to present a consensus report. The full House CA will forward report to the Drafting Committee for preparing the first statute draft. The parties also agreed to form a national unity government after the promulgation of new constitution.