Constituent assembly should ensure proportional representation: US scholar

Published June 14th 2006 in Nepal News
Speaking to media persons based in Kathmandu through videoconferencing from New York on Wednesday, Dr Andrew Arato, a constitutional expert and professor of history and sociology, said election to constituent assembly itself was not an automatic solution to the problem and that the risk of dominance of majority could not be ruled out if all sides were not included in the process.

"Constituent assembly is not an automatic solution. It can even exacerbate things and can also lead to majoritarian outcome," he said, stressing that proportional representation - not the 'Anglican' way that is the dominant in the constitution-making practice in the South Asian region - is the best method.

Dr Arato was of the view that if the constituent assembly established by proportional representation would have positive reflection in the legislative assembly to be set up afterwards.

"The will of the people cannot be represented by single-stage process [of constitution making]. That's why multi-stage process is important," he told the media persons at the American Centre in Kathmandu.

Asked for his view on the question of turning the 1990's constitution as interim constitution with some amendments or to draft a new interim statute, Dr Arato opined that amendment to this constitution to manage the interim period could not be of much help in the present situation and also because the upper chamber of the parliament is not functional as required by the present constitution.

Stressing that strict guidelines are required to establish a constituent assembly, the Hungary-born US professor said hasty election process without broad political debate would not be fruitful.

"Everybody wants everything right now. Some want the republic and some want the monarchy to go now but participation is not like that. It's a slow process. It takes time," he said, adding, "There is no substitute for democratically elected constituent assembly."

The process of constituent assembly, according to Dr Arato, should take six to nine months period to complete; otherwise it would become like 'rubber-stamping'.

In constitutional term, he opined, Nepal is not so different from South Africa or Hungary where constitutions were framed through constituent assembly and lessons from outside could be helpful in the going.