The federal democratic republic’s constitution of Nepal 2015 turns five today. And perhaps the best thing that has happened in the last five years is growing acceptability of the constitution. Despite their reservations on some of the provisions, nearly all the political parties then represented in the Constituent Assembly have come to accept it and they have also become a part of the implementation process. The parties which launched protests against the constitution in 2015 and 2016, who were even opposed to participating in the local elections in 2017, finally came on board. Some of these parties were in the government in the federal spheres and others are leading the government in the provinces. The best example of solidarity for the constitution was perhaps the show of unity all political parties demonstrated while amending it to include the new political map of Nepal in the national emblem in June of this year.
In the last five years of the implementation of the federal constitution, however, we have seen shortcomings, even anomalies. Laws are being made to protect the people’s fundamental rights in line with the constitution but those laws have been deficient in terms of safeguarding some of the fundamental rights of the people. Some of the bills, for example the Guthi Bill and the Media Council Bill, were controversial, triggering street protests and the government had to withdraw them. And there have been several cases of misuse of power by the leaders in the government. It still takes months to get basic infrastructure works done. And the leaders’ lust for power and luxury has grown so insatiable that they are being compared with former kings and queens. It would, however, be a mistake to fault the constitution for the lack of accountability of the government and the actors involved.
In half a decade, some fundamentals the constitution had envisaged are being put in place. Over 750 local governments, seven provincial governments and a federal government are functional. And some of the local governments stand out in delivery too. But there have always remained grievances from the local and provincial governments that the federal government is centralizing powers and resources, which according to the spirit of the constitution, ought to be decentralized. Provincial governments have long been complaining that they have been given no role. Likewise, some sections of the political parties and society express dissatisfaction and have demanded amendment. Needless to say, the constitution is not a document written on stone and it can be amended. Let there be a rational and open debate about it.
The journey of five years has not been discouraging in terms of laying the vital fundamentals. But much needs to be done. The government of KP Sharma Oli, the first government formed under this constitution, has not done enough to ensure smooth implementation of this constitution. Besides, the failure of his government on delivery of services, development and good governance has been so glaring that people are developing distaste for the current system itself. As the first government formed under this constitution, the responsibility to ensure its smooth implementation lies on it more than other actors. Shortcomings aside, if the government and other stakeholders work as per the spirit of the constitution, we can ensure its greater solidity in the days to come. On that note, happy constitution day!