Government in Nepal: Consensual Vs Majority Party?
By Krishnahari Pushkar
The Nepal peace process is in Limbo. On the one hand the resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal has been accepted by President Ram Baran Yadav on Wednesday 30 June.
I am not sure if it is just a part of the agreement dated May 28 where Nepal's major three parties had arrived at a Three Point Agreement: (1) To bring a logical end to the peace process and accomplish the historical goal of drafting the New Constitution, we hereby commit ourselves to accomplish our duties in consensus and unity. (2) We agree to extend the tenure of the current Constituent Assembly by a one year period to accomplish the remaining tasks of drafting the constitution. (3) To accomplish the above-mentioned jobs and responsibilities we agree to form a National Unity government in consensus and assure that the prime minister of the current coalition government is ready to tender his resignation prior to extending the Constituent Assembly tenure by 12 more months.
Most of the nonpoliticians are agreed that the resignation was a necessary part of the internal pressures where the CPM - UML party and its leaders had put huge pressures on primeminister Mr. Nepal to resign immediately--he was also facing open humiliation from his own political kith and kin. Of course, there were huge pressures from the Maoist Party too but it was not as effective since he did not even resign while the Maoists called general strikes and with many other stronger democratic and non democratic pressures (including the halt of the protest in the parliament, etc). It is very sad to illustrate that the Mr. Nepal-led coalition government was under trouble all the time due to the opposition of the Maoists, so the Government was unable to perform their routine duties and responsibilities properly. Besides there have been little but productive achievements in the ongoing peace process of Nepal in work related to DDR.
The constitution building process could have been completed in due time but it did not happen due to the noncooperation of the Maoist's and their continuous massive opposition and protests.
Honestly, the Maoists party did not even recognize the Mr. Nepal-led government, so they did not want to be cooperative in any level or with anything having to do with the Government (besides the frequent asking of the quick resignation of Mr. Nepal). The most important issue was that the Mr. Nepal-led government was constituted in support of 24 parties of Nepal, and apx 22 were supported until last. The PM suntil has tge majority in the parliament but he had to resign anyway. This may be considered one of the most destructive demerits of the transitional democratic practices.
Indeed, the letter and spirit of the Interim Constitution of Nepal and the Comprehensive Peace Accord of Nepal encourages the multi-party consensual government.
The Interim Constitution and the Comprehensive Peace Accord of Nepal stress that the national consensual government is a precondition to bring about the ongoing peace process to a logical end and to complete the constitution building process in due time. However, very few of the political parties are actually serious about either of these issues.
They have started to practice an approach which has become deeply unfortunate for Nepal. Now there is a race between the parties who all want to lead the work under their own primeministership (which is not feasible at any cost because the country has only a one prime minister constitutional system). In order for the work to be don, Nepal would need at least 24 prime ministers--otherwise they will not be able to come to a consensus!
Because of the forced resignation of the Mr. Nepal-led multiparty government, there is now chaos and several disturbing confrontations to decide who will be the next prime minister of Nepal.
There are three major parties that will most likely play a crucial role to decide upon the upcoming government. The biggest one is the Maoist party; they have two candidates for Prime Minister (Mr. Pusp Kamal Dahal and Dr. Baburam Bhattrai), however there seems to be no common consensus or actual support of these particular candidates.
Similarly, the Nepalese Congressional parties have two major candidates (Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuwa and Ram Chandra Poudel) but they also have a similar situation to the Maoist candidates.
The next candidate in line is CPN-UML, whose Prime Minister Mr. Nepal was just forced to resign, and now the president Mr. Jhalnath Khanal wants to claim this primeministership--but his candidacy is not accepted by either internal and external powers.
Also, a small party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Loktantrik, whose president Mr. Gachhedar, is also raising strong voices for his candidacy in primeministership.
India, China, and America have an especially strong influence and strategic power in terms of constituting this new government, so it won't enough to get just domestic support, but particular parties and candidates will also seek strong support from the above-mentioned international community.
In preliminary observation, there is a little hope for the Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattrai, because in order to win, he must gain anonymous support from its party, which is not an easy job because his party's president Mr. Prachand has a strong grip in his party's central to local command. On the other hand his party president has already announced his own official candidacy for primeministership.
According to the media reports and informal sources both Mr. Bhattrai and Mr. Prachanda do not have a harmonious relationship with each other and also have been found to differ in working and understanding the policies of Maoism. There is a serious rivalry that has existed for a long time between both candidates. Secondly, other parties won't support any Maoist leader for primeministership until they complete their previous commitments and agreements regarding reintegration of ex Maoist combatants, dissolution of the Young Communist League, free and fair return of seized and captured public and private properties to their original owners, honest and unconditionally obeying the comprehensive peace agreements and its related policies and practices. These have emerged as the biggest challenges facing the Maoist leader.
Concerning Prachanda, he also has similar difficulties like Bhattrai has. In addition to this, India and America have become strong opponents against him. According to media reports, India believes he supports and bears strong allies with Indian Maoist insurgency groups where hundreds of people have died during the ongoing bloodshed guerrilla warfare in many parts of India. There are many that believe Prachada's party has been supporting and helping to build an insurgency strategy, including protecting and training Indian insurgents and supply logistics etc. However, it has yet to be proven since the Government of India has not yet been able to present any proof for such allies for now. So in the meantime, Indian forces use all possible efforts to pull the Maoists from power.
Concerning America, now India and America have strong and similar ties on contemporary politics of Nepal. Suntil Maoists are on a list of suspected terrorists in the United States, and Maoists play a very different card with regard to Tibet against the interests of the US, and the US believes Maoists are in favor of Chinese strategies that are not attractive at all to the US.
Although Maoists have gained favorable supports from Scandinavia and mild support from other Schengen countries (but UK has similar interests to the US). China is also a strong power but they have a vested interest in promoting communism in Nepal but have not openly promoted any particular communist parties of Nepal. China is found mild in domestic intervention in comparison to India.
There is also a crisis of trust over the Maoists. Most of the Nepalese political parties and international community accuse Maoists as always being ready to building and make all kinds of consensus and agreements but they never put them into practice, intentionally failing in implementation. Manipulation seems to have become their manner.
Despite the illustrated facts and arguments, it is clear that the ongoing peace process and constitution building tasks cannot be performed properly without meaningful participation and contribution of the Maoists. So, they must be cooperative and should be a major pillar of government as well as part of the constitution assembly. Also, there is a sturdy voice from the Maoist party that for them, a logical end of the peace process and constitution building will not be possible until they get primeministership. So, it is a really difficult situation for Nepal.
Concerning the candidacy of Mr. Poudel and Mr. Deuwa for prime minister, the party has been suffering with highly infected groupism, with no common consensus of its candidacy. There is a massive mutual disagreement against each other inside the central command of party. Besides, Maoist leaders as well as the UML is not ready to support and participate in the Government under a Congress Party's primeministership since both the leader's personalities and their working styles are believed to be not good enough or capable to lead the party and the nation too. Although, Mr. Poudel has a back up from India and Europe, and Mr. Deuwa has a good back up from America, the UK and also a soft corner from China side. In addition, small parties like the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum are also raising its candidacy but it neither has clear support from big parties nor from the international community.
In Nepal, generally people and nationalist politicians are in opposition to any alternatives that again provide possibilities of majoritian government. Now everyone is clear that the majoritian government is not capable of achieving the national motto and goal of peace and constitution building. People have experienced past practices where Majority government was unable to deliver even the minimum level of peace and constitution.
So, the people will be extremely unhappy to see the "old win in a new bottle". People have warned the politicians and parties that they can do whatever they want, but they need both sustainable peace and an efficient homegrown constitution in due time. In the meantime, both expectations are not possible until all political parties come to the common platform and constitute national consensus government with single voices about the successful execution of the comprehensive peace accord and constitution building.
Thus, to address the above described ongoing dilemmas, the Nepalese political parties need to design its strategy in different ways than previously. There was a past experience where major Nepalese political parties agreed to accept the guidance and command of the government and constitution building process through the High Level Political Mechanism (HLPM). The mechanism was entrusted with taking the ongoing peace process to a logical conclusion, helping draft the new constitution within the stipulated date and ending the protracted political deadlock. However, it has failed to achieve even the minimum goal and objective of the HLPM. The causes behind its failure were technical difficulties in poor coordination and disputable correlation among insider and outsider forces of government and parliament/constitution assembly. So, a redesign and correction of past mistakes could be a valuable asset to address the existing problem. The top political leaders, especially the chief of the major largest parties may be represented in the restructured upcoming HLPM. However, they must build a SMART Comprehensive Political Accord (CPA) before constituting the new HLPM. In addition, all respective parties and stakeholders must agree to enforce the aforementioned three point agreement without any condition and delay, which are crucial to accelerating peace and the constitution building process in Nepal.
Of course, there should be a clear provision in both the constitution and distribution of cabinet portfolios based on expertise and practical capabilities of a particular representing person. The prime minister, defense minister, finance minister, home minister, foreign ministry and peace minister must be from different parties and they should obey all the suggestions, advice and instruction that are given by the decision of HLPM, which is perhaps a basic prerequisite in transition for an efficient common consensual government. There should be also be a clear consensus on representational issues. Diversity and gender issues also must be addressed in upcoming HLPM as well as in government structure.
Naturally, the largest party should get a chance to be prime minister first; afterwards the rest will come and get places respectively in accordance with their size and strength. If possible, the upcoming government should minimize the number of parliamentarians in cabinet. It is always good to have different representatives in different state wings (legislative, executive and judiciary) which make sense while taking into practical consideration the theory of "power separation and balance." These tools can also force the legislative and executive bodies to be more specific and concentrated in their assigned tasks and responsibilities.
Therefore, the contemporary scenario of Nepal wants a consensual government, not a Majority Party government which has already proved to be a failure to meet both the present and future needs of Nepal, so political parties must be able to provide the broader roadmap for upcoming multiparty national consensus government within the assigned deadline. Also, the nation requires two different high level powerful political apparatus under the command of HLPM who can work until successful achievement of sustainable peace and constitution in Nepal.
Government, as well existing parliaments, should also think and address the necessary dilemmas of DDR, SSR and RRR. The peace process and constitution writing responsibilities cannot be achieved successfully until management of armies and arms comes to its logical end with common consensus and cooperation.
Eventually, the issue of consensual government has become a principal need for Nepal, but it seems almost impossible due to the hoggishness and infighting of political leaders and parties. So, all stakeholders must use their position with all accessible and concerned parties and its leader to come up with a consensual government--which is what the people want after all.