What happens next in Nepal?
May 30 2012: Ambika Pokhrel, Insight on Conflict's local correspondent for Nepal, reports on the failure of Nepal's Constituent Assembly to declare a new constitution. For four years the Assembly has tried and failed to deliver a new constitution for Nepal. With it's authority expiring on 27 May, an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty has descended on the country.
I went to bed around 12:30am this morning with the fear of ‘what happens’. It is not only me, however, for every single Nepalese person now has the fear of ‘what happens’. I have not left the television live broadcasting about the Constituent Assembly since yesterday morning. I watched every moment of it till late at night. I was shocked when my 14-year old son told me that the new Constitution was not being renewed, on which 9 billion Nepalese rupees had been spent during the last four years. He further told me that with this amount of money, one Nepalese person could have studied for four years through until graduation at Harvard University. Such a huge amount of money spent with no hope of its return.
I had understood that the Constituent Assembly election only happened in a very specific period, such as once a century, and not just at a general election. However, my understanding was proved wrong yesterday night when the Prime Minister declared a fresh Constituent Assembly election on 22 November 2012 – even though the last one was held in April 2008 and expired yesterday after four years.
Yet although the Interim Constitution of Nepal has provision for the Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution again in two years, the reality is that the Assembly has already spent four years and four extensions creating amendments to it. In November 2011, the Supreme Court issued a verdict regarding a fourth parliamentary extension of the Constituent Assembly until May 27 2012, after which it stated it would not be further extended. Thus, May 27 2012 is regarded as the “Black Day,” the day the Constituent Assembly failed to declare the new Constitution.
Even so, people were demonstrating all over the country and in front of the Assembly building with the hope of pressurising the political leaders into declaring a new Constitution at the eleventh hour. In addition to this, people from many ethnic groups were also organising protests to show their favour for a new Constitution.
However, it was not only the Nepalese people who demonstrated in favour of the Constitution; members of the Assembly themselves, from the various political parties originally supposed to write the Constitution, also staged demonstrations inside the Assembly building, with the hope of pressing the top leaders into declaring a new Constitution on the eve of the Assembly’s last day.
Yet with the failure of a new statute declaration and expiration of the Constituent Assembly Nepal is in both a political and constitutional void, for the Interim Constitution of Nepal does not respect the Assembly’s failure to renew the Constitution. Indeed, added to these constitutional and legal crises, is the lack of an existing legislature parliament, for the political leaders, along with 601 Assembly members, failed to declare the new Constitution; they all failed to play the roles they were supposed to as dictated to them through the Assembly election four years ago by the Nepalese people.
It is very difficult to predict what steps will be taken by the political leaders to fulfill the political and constitutional voids. What happens in the political circles? What happens to the Nepalese people? The dream of the Nepalese people to get the new Constitution remains a dream. Nobody knows when the dream will be converted into reality. But every single Nepalese person worries about what happens next.
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