KATHMANDU, Jan 1: Political leaders on the Constituent Assembly´s Constitutional Committee (CC) have agreed to hold further negotiations for two more days at the dispute resolution subcommittee under the CC, in a bid to seek common ground on the key contentious issues in constitution writing.
CC members regularly involved in dispute settlement are, however, less optimistic that the next two days will see any results.
The latest calendar of events has mandated the subcommittee to settle all remaining disputes by Friday. UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who heads the subcommittee, presented a progress report at the CC meeting on Saturday.
At the meeting of the CC, which is mandated to prepare the integrated draft of the new constitution, members proposed giving more time to the subcommittee, on which the major political parties are represented by key leaders. Bhim Rawal of CPN-UML proposed two days more for the subcommittee and Hridayesh Tripathi of Tarai-Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) seconded the idea.
The dispute resolution subcommittee has by now settled almost all the thorny issues in a list of 75. Earlier, the high-level taskforce headed by Dahal had brought the number of disputes down from over 200 to 75.
But the party leaders have so far failed to decide which system of governance is to be adopted in the new constitution.
Apart from issues related to state restructuring, the task of finding a system of governance agreeable to the major political parties has remained the main stumbling block to advancing the constitution-writing process.
Members of the taskforce formed by the subcommittee to suggest possible options have recommended a mixed model -- directly-elected president and parliament-elect prime minister -- as a middle way, but all the parties have not accepted it. While UCPN (Maoist), CPN-UML and the Madhes-based parties seem to be flexible with regard to accepting the proposed model, the second-largest party, Nepali Congress (NC), is still reluctant.
"Our party (NC) is still for the Westminster parliamentary system and we haven´t accepted the mixed model yet," CC member Ramesh Lekhak of NC told Republica.
Another CC member, Agni Kharel of CPN-UML, is also not very optimistic about finding an agreeable solution at the subcommittee in the next two days.
As per the calendar of events recently endorsed by the CA, the CC has to resolve all the disputes by January 4, 2012 or forward the unresolved issues to the CA for voting. At that stage, the 601-seat CA can decide the issues through a simple majority.
Vote may be counterproductive
Though Lekhak and Kharel are less optimistic of finding a solution in the next two days, neither of them prefers the idea of going for a vote.
"We may be able to decide the disputes through a majority in the CA, the statute-drafting process may advance for now and we may be able to prepare the first integrated draft, but it will prove to be counterproductive at the next stage," Kharel said. He said once a vote is conducted on the remaining issues, the political parties will further consolidate their official positions and may backtrack from past agreements as well.
"Advancing the peace process by consensus among the major political parties is essential because the final draft of the new constitution must be endorsed by a two-thirds majority of the CA," said Lekhak.
In December 2009, the CC, while preparing its thematic report, opted to go for voting to decide some 10 unresolved points. But the list increased to 98 points at the time of voting at the CC, as leaders from various political parties backtracked from previous agreements and insisted on their parties´ official stances.