Siddhi B. Ranjitkar: Political Mistrust in Nepal
Political Mistrust in Nepal
By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar
Even after almost two and a half months since the election for the Constituent Assembly (CA) was held on April 10, 2008, Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) particularly the three major parties such as the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) had not reached an understanding about running the country. Political analysts have attributed it to the mistrust of each other particularly the three major parties: CPN-Maoist, CPN-UML, and NC. However, all political leaders continued to say that the SPA would continue to attempt to build confidence among all parties, and their continued cooperation on running the country. One major thing they had done was removing the former king from the palace on June 11, 2008.
After the election for the CA, pursuing the democratic norms, values and ideals, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala needed to tender his resignation and pave the way for forming a new coalition government of all of the political parties represented in the CA. That did not happen, as the two major parties: NC and CPN-UML feared that the Maoists would monopolize the power. For the first few days, it was even hard for these two defeated parties to digest the election results. They put forward various reasons for their defeat in the poll blaming others for their own faults.
The SPA needed to form a government pursuing the political consensus on it pursuant to the Article 38 (1) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007. If they could not forge a consensus on forming a new government they needed to set up a government by two-third majority pursuant to the Article 38 (2) of the Interim Constitution.
NC and CPN-UML developed the phobia of the CPN-Maoist becoming a dictatorial party, as they thought that once the Maoists would be in power there would be no way to tear it down. The CPN-Maoist garnered 220 seats out of the 575 seats, the NC 110, CPN-UML 103. So, the Maoists would surely claim the major portfolios of the new Council of Ministers. However, they forgot that the new government would be of all parties representing in the CA rather than only of the CPN-Maoist. Surely, the Maoists would lead the government and would take major portfolios but it did not mean that they would be able to do everything they wanted disregarding other political parties on the cabinet. Therefore, the fear of the two major political parties was baseless and might have shown the trick to stay on to the power as long as possible. This irrational fear led the NC and CPN-UML to think of something to keep the CPN-Maoist away from coming to power.
So, the NC and CPN-UML put forward the proposal for replacing the two-third majority required for forming or dissolving a government with a simple majority in the Interim Constitution. This would enable the NC and CPN-UML and other smaller parties together to form a new government. They also had the experiences in buying and selling the members of the then House of Representatives in mid 1990s when both the NC and CPN-UML could not acquire a simple majority in the general election held in 1994, and engaged in an unscrupulous political game to grab the power disregarding the people’s mandate for cooperating the two major political parties on running the administration at that time. Then, they push the country back to political regression and brought the absolute king back to power in 2005.
Probably, these past political events have forced the CPN-Maoist to develop the mistrust of the proposal put forward by the NC and CPN-UML for amending the Interim Constitution for replacing the two-third majority required for forming or dissolving a government with a simple majority. Probably and even rationally, the Maoists thought that their arch rivals NC and CPN-UML wanted to prevent the CPN-Maoist from forming a new government. The Maoists were almost sure that the NC and CPN-UML would play a dirty political game, as they did in the not so long past. So, they refused to accept the proposal for amending the Interim Constitution for this matter for a month or so.
After prolonged negotiations with the NC and CPN-UML, and the permutation and combination of probable political scenarios, the Maoists agreed on the amendment to the Interim Constitution for accommodating the simple majority for forming or dissolving a government. However, the Maoists wanted assurances from the NC and CPN-UML that they would not play a deceitful political game in tearing down a government and forming a new government at least during the term of the CA.
An amendment to the Interim Constitution was only one of the three items the political package they had developed; the other two are confidence building among the political parties including the merger between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Nepali Army and the last but not the least one: power sharing.
The NC had deep mistrust of what the CPN-Maoist would do when it would have the positions of both the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister. The Interim Constitution has made under the Article 147 the provision for the management of the army and weapons and their monitoring pursuant to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the Government of Nepal and the CPN-Maoist on November 21, 2006. The NC feared that when the new government would be formed both the Government of Nepal and the Maoists would be of the same political party: the CPN-Maoist. So, the NC wanted to make sure that the PLA was disarmed and the Maoists’ combatants were absorbed in the society. This was not acceptable to the CPN-Maoist.
In addition, the NC wanted to have the member of the opposition party on the National Security Council (NSC), as the NC suspected what the CPN-Maoist would do when it would have a sole control over the NSC. The Article 145 of the Interim Constitution has the provision for the NSC with the following members:
(a) Prime Minister - Chairperson
(b) Defense Minister - Member
(c) Home Minister -Member
(d) Three members appointed by the Prime Minister - members
The CPN-Maoist Government would certainly control the NSC. The NC could not trust the CPN-Maoist what its government would do. So, the NC wanted to have the member of the opposition on it. However, the CPN-Maoist did not accept it. So, the NC was almost sure to stay in the opposition on the CA. If all political parties wanted to cooperate with each other on building a new Nepal they needed to agree on the rational proposition of any political party.
Then, the Maoists claimed the positions of the President and Prime Minister. The NC and CPN-UML disagreed on giving two main portfolios of the government to the CPN-Maoist. Then, the Maoists came up with the proposal for giving the position of the President to the person that had made significant contribution to making Nepal a republic or one of the civil society leaders. They pinpointed the person called Ram Raja Prasad Singh and civil society leaders such as Padma Ratna Tuladhar and Dr. Devendra Raj Pandey. However, both the NC and CPN-UML did not agreed on this proposal, too.
The NC stuck to the demand for making its President and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala the first president of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The CPN-UML also demanded the position of the president for it. The CPN-Maoist categorically rejected the proposal for making Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala a president of Nepal in view of his health status and his past performances. However, the CPN-Maoist in principle agreed on giving the position of the president to the CPN-UML.
One of the leaders of the CPN-UML Bam Dev Gautam has been floating the idea of making the former General Secretary of CPN-UML a president. Former General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal lost the election in the Kathmandu constituency and the Siraha constituency; thus, Nepalis rejected him in both the constituencies. How could such a person be a president?
The CPN-Maoist put forward the name of one of the women leaders of CPN-UML Sahana Pradhan. She was both the woman and the member of the one of the ethnic groups in Nepal. Ethnic Nepalis have been claiming the highest position for one of its members.
The three major political parties: CPN-Maoist, NC and CPN-UML had limited their consultations, discussions and negotiations among themselves for more than two months disregarding other four members of the SPA not to mention other newly emerged political parties thinking that the three major political parties could do anything if they could forge consensus on it. The three major parties together have more than two third seats on the CA. So, they were sure of the two-third majority to do any business in the CA. However, the Interim Constitution has the provision for all seven parties to be involved in developing consensus on settling all political matters. The result was the three major political parties and the remaining four of the SPA developed mistrust among them.
If the pattern of the votes received by the political parties in the election for the CA was any guide then Nepalis wanted all political parties to work together in the environment of mutual trust and build a new Nepal changing everything possible instantly for the benefits of Nepalis in general. Nepalis did not want to see the political failure and make Nepal a failed-state. However, the same political leaders rejected by Nepalis in the election for the CA had been making more noises than the leaders recently elected by the people. Nepalis wanted the political parties to sideline the defeated leaders from having any say in the decision-making process of the national matters of the country. Nepalis did not want to see the repetition of the political game played by the then unscrupulous politicians in 1990s to grab the power by hook or crook and use the state resources for the enjoyment of their families and sycophants. They wanted to see all political parties cooperating each other on building a new Nepal.