SHAMBHU RAM SIMKHADA
The Constituent Assembly (CA) represented the aspiration of the Nepalese to be governed democratically under a constitution written by their own elected representatives. Its dissolution and declaration of another election without political agreement, consideration of constitutional impediments and practical problems demonstrated shortsightedness of the ruling elite. The Prime Minister’s claim of continuing as the executive head heightened suspicion that the ruling coalition took those steps to stick to power. These decisions undermine the Constitution and endanger the politics of consensus that ended violence and autocracy.
Nepal needs a way out of the political mess but election for another CA after dissolving the existing one is not the way forward. Do the people want, can the society afford and the country sustain further prolongation of this seemingly never ending transition and misrule leading Nepal to the brink of failure? What is the guarantee that the agonizing experience, not just of the people but most members of the dissolved CA themselves, will not be repeated?
Political brinkmanship of politicians has infuriated the people and disappointed Nepal’s friends. Conscious of their implications the President, protector of the Constitution, clarified that with the dissolution of the CA the government and the PM are in caretaker status. With his careful but firm actions, balanced and dignified behavior, the first elected Head of State has restored some hope in the constitutional process, institutionalization of peace and democracy and the end of the current transition.
Nepal faces multiple problems but the distrust among the main political actors is the key. Restoring trust is now possible only with a new national consensus government. Only such a government can bring the main political forces together for restarting the journey towards peace, democracy and prosperity for all Nepalese with agreement on the constitution and the election.
Specifically, the new government should work on the following:
• Complete the peace process/resolve the remaining problems of the Maoist Army Combatants
• Institutionalize parts of the constitution agreed by
• Agreement on remaining parts with transitional arrangements on issues that need more work
• Hold free and fair legislative and local elections
• Handover power to the new political dispensation with fresh mandate
• Until then, run the day to day administration, maintain law and order with strict enforcement of the rule of law
• Effective governance, zero tolerance on corruption and inefficiency
• Short term relief measures for wiping the tears-healing the wounds of those most affected by old injustices and recent violence
• Prepare the groundwork for the longer term prosperity of the people
• Restore the faith of the people in democracy and relations of trust and confidence with the international community
Power obsession of political leaders is mainly responsible for democracy remaining fragile, worsening people’s livelihoods, the state threatened by violence internally and weakened externally. People are so alienated from politicians that understandably there are calls for new leadership and a non-political government. But realistically cooperation among the major political forces is still the only way out of the crisis.
NC claim to lead the new government is justified on many grounds. The democratic credential of the NC is undeniable. The 1950 historic Revolution, the 1990 People’s Movement for the Restoration of Democracy to the 2006 People’s Movement for Peace and Democracy took place under NC leadership. Late Girija Prasad Koirala played the key role in uniting the political parties, inspiring the Maoists to join the mainstream and leading the successful People’s Movement. His leadership made the CA election and transition to the Republic smooth. Since then Maoists and the CPN-UML has led the government twice each. It is the NC’s turn and there is already agreement on it. There are many in the NC with experience and capability to lead the new Government. Among the top three contenders Senior Leader Deuba has been PM many times and Vice President Poudel Deputy PM and Speaker. NC President Sushil Koirala has kept himself out of the race
So, the necessary steps to bring politics back on track are:
• As the caretaker head of the government the PM should advise the President to initiate the formation of National Consensus Government
• The President to make such a call
• NC name its candidate to lead the government
• Major political parties joining it
Soon after the last NC national convention I wrote about the Mother of All Challenges facing Nepal and the NC. Time has come for all but particularly the Maoist leadership, champions of republicanism, to show wisdom; the first citizen’s son elected Head of the Republic, to show courage and the NC, the torch-bearer of the democratic awakening, the maturity to collectively demonstrate that Nepal’s republican rulers can meet the challenges facing the country.