With less than five months remaining for Nepal to formulate its new constitution, Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala sparked a fresh debate on Saturday by seeking a referendum on whether the country should adopt a federal or unitary type of governance.
Departing from a centralized unitary state model, Nepal’s interim constitution has in principle agreed to covert the country into a federal state. Most political parties including Koirala’s Nepali Congress had supported the move.
Koirala’s statement comes at a time when Nepal is in the process of restructuring the type of governance through the new constitution and follows the opposition Maoists move of declaring 13 autonomous states based on ethnicity and region.
“We want to have a perfect model while restructuring the country and there should be a referendum done to find out what the masses want Nepal to be,” said Koirala, who is also the country’s foreign minister.
The senior Nepali Congress leader and daughter of former Prime Minister GP Koirala added that unlike the Maoist model of 13 states, it would be in Nepal’s best interest to have only 3-5 development zones.
At present Nepal is divided into 14 administrative zones, which are further divided into 75 districts. The zones are grouped into five development regions—Eastern, Central, Western, Mid-Western and Far-Western.
Koirala admitted that although the new constitution has to be framed before May 28 this year, there is still enough time to seek people’s mandate on the kind of federal structure they want.
“We are a small country and there should be only 3-5 development zones. It is surprising that a responsible party like Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has declared 13 autonomous states. It could pave way for further fragmentation of the country,” she said.