Sunday, March 31, 2013

Give democracy a chance

With Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi reacting positively to suggestions by Nepal’s political class to head an election Government, Nepal’s transition to democracy has suffered yet another setback.

The shrewd proposal to form a Government headed by the Chief Justice was floated by the ruling Maoist party recently, after political parties failed to reach consensus on who would head the election Government.

Like many recent political events in Nepal, this is also surprising, and it challenges the sincerity of the so-called democratic activism that is being pursued by Nepal's political parties.

The move is worrisome as it will violate the core values of the Constitution. The provision of Article 106(1) of the Interim Constitution allows, at best, the Chief Justice or a Justice to be on deputation for judicial inquiry — it clearly prohibits a former Justice, let alone a sitting Chief Justice, to serve as the topmost executive of the Government.

On a larger scale the principle of ‘separation’ of powers as well as judicial independence would come under heavy strain. Then, what compels Nepali politicians to abandon their avowed role and instead come up with a highly objectionable set of plans?

Understandably, these political shenanigans have not found favour with the people. The ongoing protests in Kathmandu lend credence to the growing disenchantment of the masses with the incumbent regime which is labouring under the delusion that the ordinary Nepali has a dismal sense of political realities in their country.

The obvious lack of political will and consensus to hold elections and install a properly elected Government, has further eroded the credibility of the Nepali political class.

Unfortunately, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Nepali Congress have failed to acknowledge the gravity of the situation. Rather, they are working overtime to block the prospects of a ‘multi-party transitory Government’, which could have addressed the issues related to the fresh election in the country, besides putting in place a new Constitution, which is the dire need of this nation going through a difficult transition.

This is crucial to keep alive the democratic sentiments, although much more than mere tokenism is required today to pull Nepal out from its political chaos.

Ever since monarchy was abolished in this tiny Himalayan kingdom in 2008, the political parties, belying all expectations, have failed to provide a credible leadership to the country. Today, five years on, the situation has gone from bad to worse.

Probably, at this stage Nepal misses its ‘centrist stalwarts’ like its five-time Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh, or an idealist of Man Mohan Adhikari’s calibre. They are worth remembering, not with nostalgia but to emphasise the fact that the first generation political leadership could understand and empathise with Nepal’s democratic aspirations in a much better way.

These leaders were not faultless, but their performance was never at variance with the promises made to the nation and its people. They led from the front and did not shy from taking on the role of troubleshooter when issues of crucial national interest cropped up.

In the present scenario, it is impossible to find anyone from Nepal’s political circle who is not championing ‘political overplay’! Most of the current clutches of leaders are more intent on targeting easy goals and short-term interests, blithely unmindful of the disaster that such recklessness entails.

The Maoists have contributed largely to this atmosphere of gloom and despondency that Nepal finds itself in currently. It is evident now that the Maoists have clear plans of running a totalitarian regime while destroying India’s conventional position vis-à-vis Nepal.

So a sort of ‘Maoist monarchy’ is in the offing, and the rest of the contenders like the leaders of the democratic Opposition, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and Nepali Congress, have been unable to stand up for the people even as the situation has worsened over the years.

Over the years, the delay in holding elections, and in setting up of the Constituent Assembly and the involvement of non-Nepali elements in governance and federalism-related debates have made a mockery of Nepal’s polity.

It is depressing to see that an aspiring democracy like Nepal, which streamlined the basic tenets of democracy in a short span of time and successfully handled the ‘ultra radical’ political outfits following the abolition of monarchy, is struggling to save those ideals.

The coming days will decide whether Nepal dissolves into anarchy or stands up for its democratic ideals. The people, the civil society must act now to keep the system running by not allowing the Chief Justice to become the Prime Minister and by preventing the incompetent Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai from brokering power.

Nepal needs a simple democratic political course that can be easily attained without seeking the ‘blood or tears’ of the citizens. The political parties should not worry about China’s reaction; they should just move on.
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in The Pioneer on March05,2013)

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