Governance Specialist, Nepal
Onnce again, we are back to never ending, chicken-egg syndrome. The opponents are saying that political consensus can be reached only after PM’s resignation. The Prime Minister, in turn, is saying that he will resign as soon as political consensus is reached. No one is sure which comes first – PM’s resignation or political consensus? We are in a kind of political standoff situation. There are several versions of this game. Version one is that the government has been reduced to a care taker government; therefore, it needs to go. Version two says a care taker government do not have to resign; therefore, it can stay until an alternative is identified. In another version, UML is accusing NC’s failure to name their candidate for PM. They have eve issued threatening notes: If NC cannot give their name then UML is very much happy to lead next government. Recently, one of their stalwart candidates has returned from a trip to New Delhi. He seems to be buoyant with the blessings and reading body languages. He has now formally pitched himself in the battle; albeit as an alternative PM candidate to NC. He is declaring to bring a sea change, kayapalat, in Nepal, if he is to be appointed as the next PM of Nepal. I call this Olitics-Politics syndrome – expecting a chicken even before it is hatched.
Earlier, we had similar standoffs. There was a time when political leaders debated on whether we should first complete the peace process or draft a new constitution. At the end, we neither completed the peace process nor drafted a new constitution. There was also a time when the debate shifted to whether we should have “capability” or “identity” based federalism. We ended up having none. There will soon be a new debate: whether next elections will be for the parliament or the constituent assembly? They are already throwing tautological game: we have had an experience with CA performing the role of the parliament; it is time now to have the parliament performing the role of CA.
The primary opponents of the game - NC and UML- are taking an astute stand that without PM’s resignation there cannot be any negotiations. For them, PM’s resignation is a pre-condition to negotiations. They have refused to participate in any meetings called upon by the PM. They squarely put a blame on him for bringing the country to this abysmal situation; for reneging on earlier agreements; for being power hungry; for unilaterally declaring elections; and for going anarchic in the management of state resources. They are using all kinds of pressure tactics – moral, legal, political and even physical to make Dr. Bhattarai give in to their demands. They are goading Mr. President to take action against him. Some are even inciting Jana Andonlan III. Their youth wings are already on the war path of destruction. NC president, Mr. Sushil Koirala is now throwing antics: “NC is open even to the idea of CA reinstatement provided it is assured to lead the next government.” Sounds Nepal’s politics rests with Nepali Congress Party.
The government is not sitting as a mute spectator. Here are some its responses: (1) the declaration of elections is as per international tradition and convention, moreover, it is as per the directives of the Supreme Court; (2) if political parties are inconvenient with the date, the government is flexible on this; (3) it will be stupidity, on the part of the government, to resign without ever having a clear alternative; and (4) the government is not a bottleneck to all-party unity government.
In the present circumstances, except voluntary resignation or his natural death, even when the PM goes lunatic, he cannot be fired by the President. The opponents are sticking to Clause 38(7b) of the Interim Constitution which says that “the PM ceases to hold office when he/she ceases to be a member of the legislative-parliament”. Since there is no parliament, no one can whatsoever competent, can be constitutionally appointed as the next PM of Nepal. We have another circular reasoning here: PM cannot be sacked because there is no parliament; there cannot be parliament without first going to the elections; there cannot be elections without first having political consensus; and PM is not going to resign unless there is political consensus. NC stalwarts may come up with an idea that through a presidential decree a mandatory deadline may be fixed for reaching political consensus, however, we have seen, in many occasions in the past, where such a decree has failed to operate without consequences. In the Interim Constitution, the President’s position is only ceremonial and everyone is clear on this. He can only resort to moral pressure for building political consensus. And it is the thing called moral pressure that is currently lacking in Nepali politics.
The important question here is who is to take initiative on reaching political consensus. The Rt. Honourable President thinks it is the responsibility of the political parties. The opponent political parties think it to be the responsibility of the government and the political parties in power. The government, in turn, thinks political consensus to be the responsibility of the opposing political parties. If it does not think this way, it at least, thinks it is the inflexible attitude of the opponents that is hindering political consensus.
Can anyone recall Dr. Bhattarai, after becoming PM, making his first comment? He commented that his tenure will be the shortest one in Nepal’s history. In another instance, he is reported to have promised to step down if he cannot complete peace process within 45 days. Given the ongoing political chicken-egg situation, he can be holding onto the power for ever.
Exclusive for Telegraphnepal.com