Nepal’s second Constituent Assembly gets under way

Nepal’s second Constituent Assembly gets under way

nepal1More than two months after the Nov 19 elections to Nepal’s second Constituent Assembly, the new lawmakers were Tuesday administered oath by senior-most member Surya Bahadur Thapa.

A total 575 lawmakers — elected directly under the first-past-the-post system and selected as per the proportional representative electoral system — took the oath from Thapa, a former prime minister.

Security was tight since Monday evening around the International Convention Centre here, housing the Constituent Assembly building, in the wake of a threat by some political parties — who boycotted the Nov 19 poll — to prevent the newly-elected lawmakers from taking oath.

Extensive internal security too was in place inside the assembly hall where marshals were deployed to guard the area and CCTV cameras installed to monitor all activity.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), a breakaway faction of the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), is leading a 33-party alliance that had warned that it would disturb the first sitting and inaugural session of the assembly.

The Maoist-led alliance had boycotted the Constituent Assembly elections Nov 19 last year. The alliance has demanded an early dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in order to start fresh political negotiations to end the protracted political and constitutional void in this Himalayan nation.

“We have upped the vigil and deployed extensive police forces across the assembly building in view of a possible protest,” said Nepal Police spokesperson Ganesh K.C.

Soon after the 33-party alliance announced its stir programme, the Kathmandu district administration office imposed restrictions around the assembly complex, office of the prime minister and council of ministers, and the president’s office.

Remaining unfilled in the 601-member assembly are as many as 26 seats to which members representing various ethnicities, genders, religions and regions shall be nominated by the cabinet after the formation of the new government.

The first task before the assembly is to elect its chairman and vice-chairman. The oldest lawmaker in the new Constituent Assembly, 85-year-old Surya Bahadur Thapa, a five-time prime minister, was Monday administered the oath as pro-tem chairman by President Ram Baran Yadav.

The mandate of the new assembly is the same as the last one — to draft a new federal, republic and inclusive constitution.

Almost two-thirds of the constitution drafting process was completed by the former assembly. The job of the new Constituent Assembly will be to find a solution to issues like the number of states to be formed, on what basis the states will be federated and how power can be devolved.

Likewise, the Constituent Assembly has to find a solution to what form of government Nepal needs to adopt, whether it will be based on the French model or mixed or parliamentary.

Besides these issues, the former Constituent Assembly settled most other contentious issues.

The first Constituent Assembly elected in 2008 was dissolved in 2012 without it being able to deliver a constitution as mandated to it.

The parliament secretariat said lawmakers belonging to various ethnicities and castes were taking oath Tuesday in their respective mother languages.

Besides Nepali, lawmakers with diverse backgrounds took oath in Hindi, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Madhesi, Magar, Gurung, Tharu, Newar, Abadhi and Limbu, according to secretariat spokesperson Mukunda Dhungana.

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