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Republic on Paper for Nepal

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Finally, here is the republic, at least on paper, for Nepal. But public jubilation is nowhere to be seen. An update from Conflict Study Center.


Finally, here is the republic, at least on paper, for Nepal. After the protracted formal and informal disputes, debates and discussions, the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) finally agreed to agree. Thus a proposal put forward by the Maoists was endorsed on December 23, 2007.

The parties who agreed, by signing a 23-point accord, incorporated this in the Interim Constitution (IC) 2007 in the 3rd amendment: "Nepal announces a Sanghiya Loktantrik Ganatantra" (Federal Democratic Republic).

This declaration formally abolished the 240-year hereditary role of monarchy and decided to hold CA elections by mid-April 2008 (within the end of the Nepali Calendar 2064 BS). The CA polls have been postponed twice in the past: in June and November of 2007. It seems that the sharp-rift between the Nepali Congress (NC) and Maoists also ended with the new agreement, which tackled many, but not all, issues raised by Maoists.

See below to compare the Maoists' 22-point Demands and 23-point SPA Understanding (See note 1):

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Maoists' 22-point demands


(August 20, 2007)
Issue/points
1. Monarchy: Declare republic Nepal from parliament as the monarchy and its forces are conspiring against the CA election
2. Kings property: Nationalize the whole properties of late king Birendra and his family including the properties owned by Gyanendra as the king.
3. Security of Palace: Immediate withdrawal of Nepal Army from Narayanhiti Royal Place and ensure the separate general security provision to Gyanendra and his family.
4. Compliance to Rayamajhi report 2064: The individuals who are convicted as offenders by Rayamajhi Commission shall be punished immediately.
5. Democratization Integration: Democratize the NA forming Security Council and integrate the NA and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soon.
6. Election system Inclusion: Organize the round table conference to ensure proportionate representation of all class, caste, region, Madhesi, women, Dalits, minority communities, etc. for CA election.
7. Minimum program: To end the present conventional monocracy, conduct the government on the basis of consensus following common minimum program.
8. Local bodies: Local bodies shall be constituted on consensus for the CA election.
9. Appointment: Appoint/nominate ambassadors, university officials, commissioners at National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Commission for the Investigation of Abuse Authority.
10. Relief to victims: Stern actions shall be taken against the offenders responsible for killings after signing CPA and ensure relief to the victims of death.
11. Prisoners of conscience: Withdrawal of cases filed against Maoists and release all those who are still in the jails in Nepal and India.
12. Relief fund to injuries: Provide one hundred thousand Nepalese currency as compensation to the martyrs families of the people's war. Provide medical treatment completely to the injured/victims.
13. Fact-finding mission: Constitute a High-level Commission to investigate the cases of disappearances of the People's War and recommend to offenders for the action.
14. PLA camps/weapons: Manage the PLA cantonments with special government initiation.
15. Allowances to PLA: Implement the cabinet decision to provide NRs. 3,000 allowance per month to the PLA.
16. Basic human rights: Formulate legal and executive steps to implement rights to education, health, employment and food as basic fundamental rights respecting the CPA and IC.
17. Repel feudal land-ownership: Constitute a High-level Commission to implement scientific land reforms policy respecting PCA.
18. Action against corruption: Form a Special Body to take stern action against the civil servant who earned mammoth property by illegal means.
19. State Restructuring Commission: Constitute a High-level State Restructuration Commission to formulate autonomous federal government to work for forward-looking federalism with ethnic/national and regional right to self-determination.
20. Foreign agreement: Not to sign any long-term important agreement including sharing of water resources before CA election.
21. Demands of agitating groups: Fulfill the rightful demands of peasant, laborer, student, dalit, woman, service-holder, caste/ethnic/Madhesi, industrialist, businessperson, journalist, including masses for CA election.
22. Complete action: Complete implementation of the CPA agreed between the CPN (Maoist) and the Government of Nepal.


SPA 23-point Understanding


(December 23, 2007)
Issue/points
1. Monarchy: Nepal would be a federal democratic republican state. The republic would be implemented by the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. However, at least two-thirds majority of the existing number of members of the Legislature-Parliament can pass a proposal implementing the republic even prior to the election of the Constituent Assembly if the king creates serious obstacles to prevent the Constituent Assembly election. The Council of Ministers will take a decision to present such proposal and it will table such a proposal at the Legislature-Parliament. The king would have no powers regarding the state governance and that all the works related to state governance will be carried out by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister would carry out the works of the Head of State until the implementation of the republic.
2. Election System Inclusion: The 240 constituencies under the present first-past-the-post system have been retained and the number members to be elected on the basis of the proportional election system has been increased to 335 from 240 and the number of members to be nominated by the Council of Ministers on the basis of consensus has been increased to 26 from the previous 17. Necessary amendments would be made in the Interim Constitution incorporating these provisions. The 26 members of the Constituent Assembly to be nominated by the Council of Ministers will also include people nominated from the indigenous nationalities which have not been represented in the election
3. Appointment: Necessary provisions related to the appointment of the Secretary-General of the Legislature-Parliament would be incorporated in the Interim Constitution
4. Unification of NC: Necessary arrangements would be made through amendment to the Constitution regarding the unification of the Nepali Congress and the Nepali Congress (Democratic)
5. Appointment: Necessary provisions would be made in the Constitution through amendment regarding the appointment to the vacant posts of the members of Legislature-Parliament resulting from the demise, resignation and expulsion of some members of the Legislature-Parliament
6. State Restructuring Commission: The government will constitute, through consensus, the commission for investigation of disappeared people, the truth and reconciliation commission, the commission related to the restructuring of the state, the scientific land reforms study and recommendation commission, and the high-level monitoring committee for monitoring the effective implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement and the understandings reached after that. It is also stated that a high-level peace commission would be constituted as per the comprehensive peace agreement and the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction will carry out works in coordination with it.
7. Local bodies: A mechanism would be put in place in the local bodies on the basis of consensus and a decision to that end would be taken by a coordination committee comprising the top leaders
8. Relief to victims: The families of people killed during the time of armed conflict would be provided relief assistance within February 12, 2008 as per the comprehensive peace agreement. In the case of the disappeared, relief would be given to the families of the disappeared people on the basis of the report of the investigation commission. This commission will submit its preliminary report within a month from starting its work
9. Return seized property: Private and public properties including houses and land seized by Maoists in course of the armed conflict up to now would be returned to their rightful owners and agencies within a month. A mechanism would be set up at the district under the chairmanship of the Chief District Officer for implementing this agreement at the district level. The displaced will be rehabilitated to their homes and original places in a dignified manner
10. Relief funds to injured: The National Human Rights Commission will be requested to monitor the provisions regarding the compensation to the families of the people killed or disappeared in course of the armed conflict, the return of houses and properties seized in course of the conflict to their rightful owners and rehabilitation of the displaced people
11. Allowances to PLA: The verified fighters of the Maoist army would be paid the remaining amount as per the agreement in installments by the month of Magha and that the amount would be provided on a monthly basis in the days to come. Those declared ineligible following the verification would be returned home after being paid their dues
12. Democratization Integration: In connection with the integration of the verified Maoist army as per the interim constitution, the Special Committee to be formed by the Council of Ministers would discussion and move the process forward
13. Formation of commission: The Commissions to be constituted as per article 154 of the Interim Constitution (see note 2) would be materialized within the next one month
14. Prisoners of conscience: The Maoist inmates who have been jailed for various reasons during the armed conflict and yet to be released will be freedom by the month of Poush and the cases filed against the Maoist leaders and cadres would be annulled. Likewise, efforts would be made at the diplomatic level in order to release the Nepali Maoists jailed in foreign countries during the conflict. The cases filed against political personalities due to political reasons would be withdrawn
15. Minimum program: A coordination committee comprising the senior leaders would be formed in order to support and coordinate the good functioning of the interim constitution and formulation of the new constitution, comprising CA elections, federation republican state and multiparty democratic governance. The Coordinator would be fixed by the Committee and it would also determine its style of working
16. Action against corruption: The interim government will given top priority to maintaining effective law and order, making daily goods of public importance easily available, good governance, corruption control, impendence and impartially
17. CA elections: Political parties and affiliated organizations/associations would not resort to any acts that would obstruct the CA elections or have any negative impact, until the CA elections was held. The Political parties and their association’s would immediately stop acts like use of force, use and displaying of arms, collecting taxes, donations from tourists, teachers, employees, businessmen and industrialists, and not to do so as per the humanitarian law
18. Political freedom: No political parties and their workers would have to face any kind of obstruction or stopping in course of carrying out the party organization’s political activities and publicity works
19. Complete action: The parties concerned expressed commitment to fully abide by and enforce all the aspects related to the issues covered by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
20. Relief funds to injured: Government of Nepal would take the initiative to bring together international cooperation for immediate enforcement of the financial obligations including to reconstruction, rehabilitation, management, resettlement and relief to the conflict victims
21. CA elections: The seven-parties would hold seven mass meetings in various parts of the country, calling upon the general masses to take part in the CA elections'
22. Reinduction appointment in the government: Following this agreement, the CPN (Maoist) would join the government immediately
23. CA elections: It is our first national agenda to ensure that the CA elections is held. We have already passed the decision to allow the destruction of the house completes in Chaitra, 2064. In this statement, the parties also heartily appeal to provide service to all the political parties, civil society and people working for professional organization in order to ensure that the elections 2064.

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The Maoists' major 'republican' demand has been fulfilled in credit, and a few others in cash, and yet there are some other issues that remain untouched. A significant issue raised by the Maoists that remains unaddressed concerns the king's property. But the government has already taken initial steps to tackle that issue. Another important topic still needs to be addressed: The interim constitution has abolished monarchy and declared the country a republic, but there are still army personnel and other staffs serving the king. Withdrawal of army (3,000-strong personnel) from the palace is a major issue.

Similarly, the Understanding is silent on the critical demand to punish the perpetrators of suppression of Janaandolan II as identified by the Rayamajhi Commission. Such inaction will only help to perpetuate a culture of impunity. The Understanding does not address the demands of the agitating groups (Madhesi, Dalits, Janajatis, etc.) as well.

This Understanding, to some extent, addresses the interim parliament directive of November 4, 2007, which included declaring the country a republic and adopting proportional representation (42 percent direct and 58 percent proportionate) system. As for the electoral system, the Understanding proposed mixed type, 240 seats trough first-pass-the-post (FPTP) and 335 from proportional representation and 26 nominations by the cabinet. The seat numbers have increased by 17 percent (104 members) now.

The Constitution Assembly membership of 601 in a country of 2.5 million people is a mammoth assembly. Even parliaments in huge countries like India and others are not that big. The interim constitution has been amended thrice in a year on the issue of CA. Such a thing has happened before-- in the1950s the interim constitution of the time was amended seven times, and finally no CA election could be held. This time again, it increasingly looks like CA elections may not be held, at least in the near future.

The major spoiler is the conflict raging in tarai. The turmoil and political polarizations in tarai directly influence the constituencies of national parties and their election outcome. For instance, tarai has been a major base for NC in the previous elections. Recent moves toward forming new parties and alliances by Madhesi leaders in the region will have important ramifications for national parties. Recently, Mahanta Thakur, former co-General Secretary of Nepali Congress (NC), founded a Tarai-Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP), which attracted many Madhesi leaders from mainstream political parties. Some see it as a ploy of NC to cling to its old base. In other words, if tarai falls under the net of NC, then there is the possibility to hold the CA polls.

International efforts may help spurt interest in the elections. However, some examples are not that encouraging. The Nepali Maoists' stance have at times forced India to reconsider its options. For example, the Maoists ignored the Indian pressure to hold CA on November 22, 2007. However, Indian role in bringing the SPA together to the Understanding remained decisive. Shyam Sharan, the former Indian ambassador to Nepal, played a key role in reducing the numbers in the FPTP and enlarging membership in the proportionate representation system. India welcomed the SPA Understanding soon after it was announced. Whereas China, which has in the past sided with the King, welcomed it indirectly. The prominent role player, the USA, remains formally silent on it. Nancy Powell, the US ambassador to Nepal, in an interview on December 11, 2007, said that the fate of monarchy was "something for the Nepali people to decide." Unofficially, there are other perspectives from the US. Jimmy Carter, a former US president, was the first to propose 70 percent full proportionate and 30 percent direct election system. The views of the British government have remained consistent.

Indian role is suspect in the eyes of the Maoists. The Maoists, who were close to China in policy and strategy matters, have diverted tactically close to India (they proclaimed to fight against Indian expansionism during their "People's War"), particularly after their Chunwang meeting of 2005. India had played the key role in hosting the SPA and Maoists meeting for the 12-point Understanding of November 2005 at New Delhi, which irked the rank and file Maoists for they believed their party has become pro-India. Indian active engagement with the top leaders and their (along with their intelligence entity) involvement in bringing about the recent 23-point agreement has again created similar suspicious environment among the rank and file Maoists. Public sentiment is also shifting. In recent weeks, the common people have become increasingly aggressive in their protests against Indian encroachment in the Susta, Kalapani and Kanchanpur areas.

With that local and international context, Nepal's political transition appears complicated. The country is under an unusual system, a republic with a king (in name), enjoys limited privileges, except political and military authority. Some have called the new system an 'un-pledged republic' whereas some others label it 'pseudo republic'. The formal implementation of the republican system will begin with the first CA session.

Despite such a landmark agreement between the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists to overthrow the unpopular monarchy, there was no public jubilation in the streets of Kathmandu. Perhaps the public knows better that a republic on paper is not a republic in deed.


Note

1. The 23-point Understanding was signed by (1) NC Acting Chairperson Sushil Koirala, (2) CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, (3) Communist Part of Nepal (Maoist), Chairperson Prachanda, (4) Janamorcha Nepal, Chairperson Amik Sherchan, (5) Nepal Workers and Peasants Party Narayanman Bijukchhe, (6) General Secretary of Nepal Sadvawana Party (Anandidevi), on behalf of the party, Shyam Sundar Gupta, and (7) Chairperson of United Left Front CP Mainali

2. Article 154 of the IC on Formation of Commissions: The Government of Nepal may form necessary commissions to safeguard and promote the rights and interests of different sectors of the country including women, Daltis, indigenous ethnic groups, Madhesi, disabled, laborers or farmers. The provisions for the formation, functions, duties and powers of such commissions shall be as determined by the law.


This is an edited and excerpted version of the Situation Update (January 4, 2008) on Nepal by the Kathmandu-based Conflict Study Center. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the editorial veiws of Nepal Monitor

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CPA
Brihát Śhānti Sámjhautā, 2006
(Comprehensive Peace Agreement)








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