In resolving all the contentious issues relating to constitution writing, the political parties have ensured that this newest republic will have its constitution by May 27, the day the current term of the Constituent Assembly expires. This agreement is, by all measure, a historic one. The last sixty years of modern Nepal´s political history is actually a history of the Nepali people´s continuous struggle for democracy, a history marked by periods of success interspersed with setbacks. The 2006 People´s Movement cornered the monarchy; paved the way for the election of the Constituent Assembly, which eventually abolished the monarchy; and ushered in a republican era. But without a constitution drafted by the Constituent Assembly, this historic process of transformation would not have found a logical conclusion. The promulgation of the new constitution will, therefore, mark an end of an era and also the beginning of a new one.
The parties have agreed to deliver a constitution not just for the sake of doing so; they have also succeeded in coming up with a relatively good one. Agreed that not every one of us will be equally happy with it, and we will all have our own wish-lists of things that should have been included or excluded from the constitution. But this constitution does address the major issues concerning key stakeholders, including the various communities and nationalities of this country. The agreement to have 11 provinces in federal Nepal will address the aspirations of diverse identity groups for self-governance. At the same time, the decision to leave the naming of the provinces to the future provincial assemblies is the wisest choice on this acutely contested and emotive issue. Federalism means, among other things, delegating decisions to the provinces and the leaders have done just that! There are some legitimate arguments about the viability of 11 provinces in a poor country, but the skeptics should realize that the provinces will spend only as much as they can earn under the resource-sharing agreement, and that the viability question is after all a relative thing.
On the question of system of governance, going for a mixed model is perhaps not the best option. Having a directly elected president and a parliament-elected prime minister with powers shared between the two (something yet to be finalized) will inevitably invite conflict between head of government and head of state. Such frictions are all the more likely as we don´t have any precedents or traditions to fall back upon whenever conflicts arise between the two. But let´s accept it: Only a mixed system offered a meeting point between the two largest political parties in the Constituent Assembly, two parties with differing political views and values. We have repeatedly maintained that politics is the art of the possible and a constitution is, fortunately, not something set in stone. It can evolve and change over time. Let´s appreciate the fact that the parties and leaders have worked hard and come to an agreement, something that seemed impossible not so long ago. And let’s thank them for their achievement, however imperfect it is