Governance Specialist, Nepal
Late Peter F. Drucker, world renowned management guru, has differentiated doing right things (ends or goals) from doing things right (means or processes). While declaring next elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA), Prime Minister Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai may not have done things right but he has definitely done a right thing. The decision is legally, morally and politically a correct one. Here are some reasons why:
Well it can be argued that there is no provision in the Interim Constitution to have another CA election. It can further be argued that without effecting necessary changes in electoral laws, it is near impossible to have another election. To some, the date of elections, 22 November may not be “weather-friendly” and “people-friendly” or to be precise, it is not Nepali Congress (NC) friendly. (A conspiracy theorist may even see the choice of the date 22 November as Maoists strategy to undermine 12-point agreement inked in New Delhi, in 2005; coincidently, it was on same date the so called historic agreement was signed.) Similarly, more arguments can be offered: the country may not afford to have another round of elections or revival of dead and defunct CA is a cheaper option ready available. All these arguments are purely legal, technical, administrative and procedural matters. These are related to doing things right. They are not right things in themselves. In a writ petition related to extension of CA tenure, the Supreme Court has issued a directive for possible elections as an option. It is legally correct to accept the court directive.
In a democratic system, people are sovereign and it is also morally correct thing to secure their fresh mandate. The defunct CA, elected for two-year term, has failed to complete its task even after four years, with four extensions. Given the political complexity, there is no out that political consensus could be reached between the quibbling political parties who seems to be interested, primarily, in sharing powers than in drafting of a new constitution and peace building exercises. Within four years, the country saw four prime ministers successively coming in and going out without any valid reasons. The country spent Rs9 billions from state coffers to take care of non-performing 601 CA members who, literally, were snoozing inside CA or dancing to the tune of their puppet masters. If one includes foreign aid received for drafting of constitution and peace building exercises, the total amount runs over Rs100 billions. Who do we held accountable for this mismanagement? More importantly, how do we hold them accountable? The answer lies in elections. Furthermore, aberrations on the part of some CA members and, equally, some non-CA members have also brought total disgrace and disrepute to the political system. The non-CA members literally made a joke out of electoral system. Elected CA members were overshadowed by defeated, nominated and non-nominated CA members. Election is the only way out to correct these aberrations. There is no guarantee that further extension of CA, as proposed by CPN-UML, to have a transformed parliament settling outstanding contentious issues, will resolve the contentious issues. People, in general, were fed up and tired with the working and style of our CA members. Relative calmness shown by Nepal’s foreign friends and donors on the mid night of 27 May reflects their fatigue with Nepal’s seemingly never ending peace process.
It is also a politically correct decision. In a democratic society, there is no alternative to free and fair elections. Going for elections mean you are empowering people; giving choice to them and asking them to decide. There is no power greater than people-power. The opposition parties have forwarded several arguments but they do not hold water. Some of these arguments include: (1) same people with turn up again in next elections resulting in a similar deadlock situation, (2) there is no mood on the part of major political parties to go for elections, (3) our electoral machine is not ready for next elections, (4) it is going to be a sheer waste of resources, and (5) the next elections are going to invite further violence and instability in the country.
Careful reading from Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML statements reveals that these two major players have not refuted to the idea of going to elections. If a pro-monarchist fellow like Mr. Kamal Thapa can accept and welcome elections, it will be too difficult for NC and CPN-UML to refuse. The parties are not against the ends of election (right thing) they are against the means of elections (things right). The issue here is whether ends determine means or means determine ends. For a pragmatist it is the means that determine ends, it can also be true for a status quoits. For an idealist it is the ends that determine means. It can also be true for a change seeker.
NC and CPN-UML opposition to electoral means is very much obvious. They wanted to be in the driving seat so that election outcomes can be influenced. Therefore, they are arguing that unilateral declaration for elections is unconstitutional as it is not backed by consensual decision and a care-taker government cannot declare elections. They are even threatening to boycott. Things are not as clear as what they argued; probably, one has to wait till the Supreme Court comes up with its verdict on elections.
By now, it is clear why and how CA has been unceremoniously dissolved or led to die on its own. As four parties to the dispute did not see any way to achieve their goals, they preferred to let CA die. NC and CPN-UML preferred to dissolve CA as they could not topple Bhattarai Government and put themselves on the driving seat at the last hour. Maoists and Madhesi Morcha preferred to see CA dead than to give up powers without NC and CPN-UML conceding to their demand for ethnic or identity-based federalism.
Since Interim Constitution makes no provision to sack an elected PM, political parties are forced to come to a consensus to have next elections. Their other alternative is to initiate Jana Andolan III whose feasibility at this stage is questionable. The other alternative is to let Dr. Bhattarai run the government for ever. Paradoxically, by the actions and inactions of parliamentary political parties, Maoists have indeed able to capture the state which they dreaded so much.