Participatory Constitution-Building in Nepal – A Comparison of the 2008-2012 and the 2013-2015 Process

  •  Abrak Saati    


Participatory constitution-building is a trend that appears to be here to stay; particularly when new constitutions are drafted in the aftermath of war or during transitions from authoritarian to democratic rule. Anticipations as to what the involvement of the public will achieve are several, and scholars are only recently starting to systematically investigate whether or not these expectations find empirical support. Previous research has shown that public participation in the making of the constitution can have certain positive effects at an individual level of analysis, but that the actions of political elites during constitutional negotiations might affect outcomes at a macro level of analysis more than what has hitherto be acknowledged in this strand of research. Nepal is one of the most recent cases of participatory constitution-building, and the country carried out not only one, but two, such processes within a time period of only seven years. The first resulted in failure as a draft constitution was never finalized; the other in success with the adoption of a constitution in 2015. This article takes an interest in exploring and comparing these two separate processes as regards the extent of public participation vis-à-vis political elite negotiations and bargaining behind closed doors. The article finds that what primarily sets the two processes apart, is how broad based public participation and secluded elite negotiations were sequenced. In light of other empirical examples, the article also discusses if elite bargains ought to be struck before the general public are invited to participate.

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