Immediately after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly last month, all political parties started blaming others for the body’s failure. And now all the parties in the opposition are utilising the vacuum created by the dissolution of the legislature to mobilise their party organisations. The Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and 21 other parties recently staged a mass meeting in favour of consensus and against “Maoist authoritarianism”. Although the mass rally in Kathmandu perhaps didn’t meet the parties’ expectation in terms of participation, they did succeed in making their point. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal held another mass meeting on Saturday, where its leader Kamal Thapa claimed that with the failure of the CA, it was necessary to either hold fresh elections or bring the 1990 constitution back to life. It was also necessary, the party said, to rehabilitate the institution of the monarchy, which the revival of the 1990 constitution will entail. In the current disillusionment with the mainstream parties, Thapa seems to have managed to attract more public support than he had previously.
It is necessary to state that the dissolution of the CA does not mean all of the gains made over the past seven years have unraveled. The leaders may not have succeeded in drafting a new constitution, but this does not mean that the country automatically reverts to the 1990 constitution. The Interim Constitution of 2006 is in existence and still enjoys legitimacy. Many popular demands of the previous years are enshrined in that document. The monarchy, for example, has been abolished. The document also states that Nepal will be a federal state. Discussions over the model of federalism may have currently stalled, but this does not mean that federal demands have evaporated. As soon as the opportune time arises, it will be necessary to continue with the discussions that were being held in the CA. Until then, all parties will have to follow the Interim Constitution.
Many state that the current movements by the political parties will have to run their course before they sit down to negotiate the details of the constitution again. Granted, there are many obstacles to achieving consensus. Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has said that the CA can be revived, but all the parties will have to first accept identity-based federalism. The opposition parties, meanwhile, have threatened to obstruct all forward movement until Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai leaves office. There appears to be no urgency towards the resolution of disputes, either from the ruling parties or the opposition. This is unfortunate. In current circumstances, the political parties would do well to privately engage in negotiation with a view towards reaching compromise, rather than publicly posture. The sooner that disputes are resolved, the more able will the parties be able to reclaim legitimacy and to avoid the myriad problems that may arise as a result of the dissolution of the legislature. Importantly, a sustained deadlock could not only lead to general anarchy but also give rise to forces that will start questioning the legitimacy of the huge political gains made, since as far back as 1990.