KATHMANDU, April 17: Top leaders from major political parties during the two-day marathon meeting at Hattiban Resort have narrowed down their differences on some of the major contentious issues in constitution writing.
Though they are still striving to find common ground on the two trickiest issues -- system of governance and state restructuring-- the leaders have reached an understanding on the electoral system to be adopted in the new constitution and also agreed to ensure that there will be no provision that is discriminatory against women.
UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress (NC) President Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal and Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (Democratic) Chairman Bijay Kumar Gachhadar led their respective teams at the talks.
CPN-UML leader Surendra Pandey, who was present at the meeting, said the leaders have agreed to reduce the percentage for the proportional representation quota while increasing the proportion for first-past-the-post election.
"All the leaders at the meeting had a common view on allowing two-thirds for FPTP and only one-third for the proportional representation quota," Pandey told Republica.
Earlier, they had agreed to adopt a mixed [FPTP and proportional] electoral system but hadn´t set out the respective percentages.
On federalism, the leaders said they have succeeded in narrowing down their differences although they are yet to arrive at a conclusion.
According to participants, the leaders reiterated their respective party stances, but they also showed some flexibility over the number of provinces to be delineated. They believed that the parties could settle on around eight provinces.
Maoist leaders said they could be flexible over their previous stance for a 14-province model but only on condition that the other parties become ready to properly address the issue of identity while delineating and naming the provinces. The NC insisted on six provinces while UML said they could go up to eight provinces but leaders from both sides showed readiness to add or remove one or two provinces.
"We can be flexible on number of provinces if the issue of identity is properly addressed," said Maoist lawmaker Khimlal Devkota, who was present at the meeting.
But leaders from NC and CPN-UML strongly objected to naming and delineating ethnicity-based provinces. The Maoists, NC and UML leaders agreed to delineate provinces on two major bases -- identity and economic viability but they differed on definition of identity. While the Maoists proposed provinces based on ethnicities such as Rai and Limbu, other parties including NC and UML are for broader identity such as Kirant and for combining Magarat and Tamuwan.
On system of governance, leaders from all the sides, during the first round of talks, reiterated their previous positions. Maoist Chairman Dahal pitched for a popularly-elected executive president, NC leaders insisted on a parliamentary model and the UML championed a directly-elected prime ministerial system.
But the discussion later focused on finding some common ground, with a mix of directly-elected president and parliament-elect prime minister, as earlier proposed by a taskforce formed by the CA´s Constitutional Committee (CC).
Then, Maoist Chairman Dahal said they can go for a mixed model on condition that the executive powers of the popularly-elected president are increased. But the NC turned down the proposal outright.
"The discussions indicate that on system of governance we will finally find common ground somewhere within the mixed model," said Devkota.
The third dispute is over forming a separate constitutional court, as pressed for by Madhesi parties and the Maoists.
NC is for settling the matter by forming a separate bench to oversee cases related to political issues and the UML has given a green signal to the NC proposal. The Chief Justice of the apex court will head the separate bench as well.
"We can go for the option of forming a separate bench and can appoint justices from outside the Supreme Court as well," UML´s Pandey said. The leaders had proposed appointing an independent constitutional expert, who meets the qualifications required to become a Supreme Court justice, for the bench.
But leaders from Madhes-based parties insisted on a separate constitutional court. "They are for forming the separate court [not only a bench] at least for five years," said participants at the meeting.
On the dispute related to citizenship provisions, the leaders agreed in principle not to incorporate any provision discriminatory against women. Women lawmakers and activists have been demanding that the new constitution treat women and men equally, particularly in case a Nepali man marries a foreign woman or a Nepali woman marries a foreign man.
"We have agreed to provide equal treatment for both cases but we need to hold some consultations with experts before finalizing it," said NC leader Minendra Rizal.
The leaders, then, decided to convene meetings of the Constitutional Committee and the dispute resolution subcommittee on Tuesday to discuss the matter.