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Ram Bahadur: Elections Will Solve Nepal Problems

Elections, Will Solve Problems In Nepal


By Ram Bahadur KC

Parliament in a democratic country has fundamental functions entrusted upon the representatives of the sovereign people, chiefly the functions of political and financial control (executive responsibility, surveillance of administration and accountability), information, representational and general ventilation, educational and advisory, conflict resolution, national integration, legitimisation (law making), constituent (amending constitution) and leadership (political education and cadre development). Currently, Nepal does not have a Parliament since the dissolution of the House of Representatives and the Royal takeover of October 4, 2002. And one of the agendas the seven-party alliance has to restore "full or inclusive democracy" is the restoration of the dissolved House, besides elections to a constituent assembly and the republican set-up in the country.

The parties have been claiming the revival of the House is the only way out of the constitutional stalemate and that can only find a solution to the Maoist insurgency.

However, the demand for the restoration of the dissolved parliament is not feasible, as the fulfillment of the demand may create more problems instead of solving the already existing ones, as some leaders vehemently argue.

The agitating parties have even gone to the extent of organising a mock parliament session in public places, thus humiliating the apex institution in the name of democracy and against the so-called repressive measures of the King, (who is often charged by the agitating parties of overstepping the Constitution and being autocratic) despite his repeated commitment to multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy within the parameters of the Constitution.

It is something 'looking before and after and pining for what is not.' It is not the way of consolidating and reforming the system, but the way of destabilising and capitalising the opportunities for partisan and personal interests.

The dissolution of the House of Representatives could not have been felt, had there been sincere attempts and active initiative on part of the concerned authorities for the effective and independent functioning of the National Assembly. The National Assembly is a permanent, independent and integral part of Legislature as in other democratic countries. Generally, its functions are to complement the House of Representatives in legislation, formulate policies, and pass motions and resolutions as per the need of the country.

The rationale behind the National Assembly is also that it acts as a counter-check, a brake and a watchdog of the Lower House which may not formulate appropriate policies, pass hasty legislations and agree to anti-national treaties and negotiations under pressure. That is why the Upper House is also appropriately named as the House of Elders.

In times of crisis and the period of Emergency, there is a constitutional provision to make it work and even exercise Emergency powers and other provisions of the Constitution, besides conducting its own functions, governed by the rules of the House. The view that it cannot work independently and in the vacuum of the House of Representatives is biased and prejudiced.

Organising a budget session in the National Planning Commission and sometimes in other auditoriums and also holding mock sessions in the streets are itself ridiculous and paradoxical exercises in parliamentary history.

Even if the agitating parties agree to the restoration of the House, there is still a need for a harder choice to be made in between the reinstatement of the House or early elections. The choice has to be weighed in many ways and in between the contradictions of the parties and the legal provisions of the Constitution. There are still many constitutional experts who claim the dissolved house could and should be revived.

Once the House is dissolved on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and the cabinet, how could the other Cabinet members request for its restoration? Could it not be contradictory to the previous measure? Curtail the prerogative right of the PM of recommending the House dissolution? Persuade His Majesty to resort to the 'unconstitutional' step? Could it not be against the decision of the Supreme Court that has validated the previous dissolution? And could it not be contradictory to the democratic practice of world?

The measure cannot be simply excused for the so-called special and extraordinary situation of the country. What is the guarantee that the revival of the House would resolve the Maoist problem and pave way for free and fair elections?

The Maoists, as a rising political force, could enter the political mainstream, resort to the politics of reasoning and dialogue, and thumb the negotiating table to have all their rightful say in a convincing manner. But all if they shun violence, abduction, extortion and indoctrinating people by sheer force of the guns.

The solution to the stalemate is the convention of all the parties and stakeholders, formation of an all-party government and holding elections to the constituent assembly, which is only the mechanism to formulate the people's Constitution.

The House restoration without fresh elections could be another game of dirty politics, power gripping and forfeiting the fundamental rights of the people. For all intents and purposes, early elections weigh far more than the restoration of the House to avoid duplication, to preserve constitutional validity and secure a fresh mandate of the people. The parties have to be voted into power as elected representatives. Election is an integral part of democracy. Only when candidates get elected and get a fresh mandate they are entitled to represent the people's views and aspirations.

Convincing voters could be a good manifesto, which is also a platform to espouse party ideology, policies and objectives against the backdrop of the prevailing political, social and economic issues of the country.

A newly-elected parliament is the only viable solution, though some parties could still argue the proposition is hope against hope and not at all a logical alternative for ending the current impasse. No election can be held unless the Maoist problem is solved and the so-called regressive measures of the King rectified.

Looking at it from the legal point of view also, a fresh and early election is the only viable solution. It could also be an ultimatum to the so-called leaders and timely check to the regressive and anti-democratic measures, if any.

The parties have failed to address many issues on many occasions. Previously, they failed in holding a scheduled mid-term election citing security reasons. Even now, some parties are crying foul over the proposed elections to the municipalities, branding them "a ploy to prolong the current autocratic and unconstitutional regime," and are making one excuse after another to avoid it for fear of it being not in their favour.

However, local election is the fore-runner and pre-condition of general elections in the future.

The agitating parties, if they really think they are popular and are so sure of mass support, could have by no means liked to skip the chance for fear of being losers as the major parties.

The other parties claiming support of the ethnic community, the Tarai community and some rightists could also not risk to bypass the election. If the parties, the Maoists, the leaders and the political intellectuals are writing so much on the wall, why should they be afraid of facing election and in proving their worth in the democratic exercise? Why should they not face elections and dare challenge the so-called regressive measures of the constitutional monarch who has often said that those who are voted in should rule the country, as nobody in the 21st century would like to be dictated and subjected to the pressure and violations in the streets and booming guns in the jungles.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing political turmoil, defiant and non-tiring agitation, and the provocative attitude of the parties and their leaders, the truth of realisation and reconciliation should prevail.

A day after the news of the European Parliament striking a blow for democracy in Nepal hogged the headlines and buoyed the soaring spirits of the agitating parties, the Vice-Chairman of the Council of ministers Dr Tulsi Giri said the King-headed government is open to holding talks with the leaders of the seven-party alliance.

Since the parties yanked out references to monarchy from their party statute and started talking in shrill terms on a republican set-up, the Royalists also have the right to say that they believe in "monarchical democracy."

We all Nepalese living within or abroad could feel proud and honoured if Nepal could be transformed into a successful country and not a failed state in the comity of nations.

That the political parties, particularly those protesting against the so-called autocratic and regressive measures of the establishment do not like to hold talks with the King for reconciliation is a sheer foolhardiness and extremity of obstinacy.

Likewise, the presumption that all the political leaders are unethical and corrupt could also be a blunder on the part of the establishment. Sincere introspection of the past deeds and a meaningful dialogue between the King, the parties, and then followed by the negotiations with the Maoists could only resolve the protracted issue of insurgency.

That is the political rationale and basic principle of democracy. Politics of reasoning and dialogue leads us to an all-win situation, but war will only ruin and create devastation.

*************

(Ram Bahadur KC is a former secretary of the Parliament and has some publications on land reform and administration to his credit).


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