Since I started my internship, the primary focus of International IDEA and other organizations that are aiding the constitution writing process has been trying to find a way to restart the stalled process. As I have mentioned before, the process initially stalled on May 27 when the Constituent Assembly failed to agree on a draft constitution and was subsequently dissolved by the Prime Minister. Since that time, there have been numerous efforts to discuss finding a way forward, but the primary focus of the opposition parties has been to force the Prime Minister and his government to resign. This argument mainly stems from the belief that the Prime Minister has no constitutional authority to continue governing as he drew his power from the Parliament/Constituent Assembly, which has now been dissolved. The main problem with this is that it is not clear who would govern if the current government stepped down because the Interim Constitution did not contemplate a situation like this and did not provide any guidance for governing in the transition period until a new Constituent Assembly is elected. This ongoing battle between the government and the opposition has been a major obstacle to the parties deciding on a way to restart the constitution writing process.
For the past several weeks, I have been conducting comparative research and preparing a report on possible ways to manage the transition period and restarting the constitution writing process. The bulk of my research has been looking at various other countries who have gone through similar situations to determine possible solutions to the issues facing Nepal. So far I have found a number of methods that other countries have used to break deadlock in constitution writing. The interesting thing is that most of these methods involve avoiding negotiation in a formal setting or removing the negotiating process from the hands of politicians all together. This has been done through creating expert committees to actually draft proposals then putting those proposals to a referendum. The primary goal of these approaches seem to be attempting to minimize grand standing during negotiations and attempting to depoliticize contentious issues.
As part of this research, I attended roundtable discussions that were hosted by IDEA a few weeks ago. The purpose of these discussions was to brain storm with political party leaders and other people involved with writing the constitution to try to figure out a plan moving forward. Overall, the discussion was very interesting and made a number of view points known. The frustrating part of these talks is that there tends to be a lack of actual deliberation. It seems that most people come with a prepared statement and stick to that statement rather than responding to the conversation that is happening in the room. One of the key examples of this was that throughout the day almost everyone who spoke called for consensus and said that consensus on these issues was the only way forward, but nobody seemed to offer any suggestions on how to reach this consensus. This once again reminded me of Congress calling for bipartisan solutions, but not offering any kind of a road map to reach a compromise. I guess certain parts of politics are the same everwhere.
Overall, there does seem to be some progress that is being made on this issue. It will no doubt be a slow process, but for now the parties are at least talking to each other, which is a huge improvement from where things were when I started my internship.