Battle between Pro & Against Federalists Continues In Nepal
Battle between Pro and Against Federalists Continues In Nepal
Siddhi B Ranjitkar
November 26, 2012
Head of State: President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav has been heading to the political cliff and soon he might fall from the cliff to an abyss. After asking the political parties to form a consensus government within seven days, the president has overstepped the Interim Constitution that has made provision for the president to act only on the recommendation of the prime minister. This is the second time the president has crossed the boundary of the constitution to meet the ambition of his former boss and colleagues. This time, the president would not be able to escape the punishment from the people or the judicial punishment for the political felony he has committed. The president has taken the side of the anti-federalists. Now the federalists need to defend the federalism and push the president from the cliff he is reaching.
On November 23, 2012, the office of the head of state issued a statement calling on the political parties to find out a consensus candidate for the office of prime minister as if the current prime minister has resigned. Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has not resigned, yet; so, he is still a democratically elected government. His term of office will end only after a new CA is elected, and a new prime minister is elected. He has set a new date for the elections to a new CA, as the first date: November 22, 2012 has expired without holding the elections because of no cooperation of the president and the opposition coalition on removing the legal hurdles to holding the elections.
This is the second violation of the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 committed by the President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav. The first violation he had committed was in 2009 when he wrote a letter directly to the Chief of Army Staff invalidating the firing of the Chief of Army Staff done by the then Prime Minister Prachanda. The first violation of the constitution had put the opposition coalition in power leading to the current political deadlock. Whether the current violation of the constitution also will put the opposition coalition in power remains to be seen but the intention of the president clearly is to do so.
The head of state: President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav has played a double role in the state affairs. He did not cooperated with the Council of Ministers on holding the elections to a new CA scheduled for November 22, 2012 holding back the ordinances the Council of Ministers had submitted him to remove the hurdles to holding the elections. So, President Yadav needed to explain to the people why he did not issue the ordinances that would have made possible to hold the elections. Now, President Yadav issued a statement to find out a new prime minister playing another role in the state affairs. If anybody reads through the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007, s/he will find that there is no such provision for the president to issue such a statement.
The statement the office of the president issued has said that the president has used the Article 36A of the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 to ask the political parties for finding out a common candidate for a new prime minister following the Article 38 (1) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007.
The Article 36A states, “President: (1) There shall be a President in Nepal. (2) The President shall be the head of state of the country, and in that capacity perform his or her functions in accordance with this Constitution and the laws in force. (3) The main duty of the President shall be to protect and abide by this Constitution.”
This Article 36A of the constitution clearly says that the president is supposed to protect the constitution and then abide by the constitution. Quoting this article for issuing an order to the political parties to find out a consensus candidate for the office of prime minister, the president has made a mockery of his duty of protecting the constitution and then abiding by it. This article clearly does not say that the president has the authority to order the political parties to find out a consensus candidate for the office of prime minister. So, the president has wrongly interpreted this article and then overstepped the constitution for asking the political parties to explore a consensus candidate for a new prime minister.
The Article 38 states, “Formulation of Council of Ministers: (1) The Council of Ministers shall be formed under the chairpersonship of the Prime Minister, on the basis of political understanding. (2) Failing the understanding as referred to in Clause (1), the Prime Minister shall be elected by a majority of the total number of the then members of the Legislature-Parliament.”
The president quoted the Article 38 (1) of the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007 to call the political parties on finding out a consensus candidate for the office of prime minister but the president unscrupulously and deliberately missed the sub-section (2) that clearly states that this Article 38 is for asking the political parties in the legislature-parliament to form a new government. Currently, the country has no legislature-parliament. So, the president has no authority to use this article for forming a government, as the article is only when the country has a parliament.
However, the leaders of the opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML have welcomed the president’s unconstitutional action clearly showing that they are not for the rule of law but for grabbing the power anyhow. The president has not turned over the power to them but simply has said even unconstitutionally to find out a common candidate for a new prime minister.
The opposition leaders have been exploring how to form a new government. The president of NC Sushil Koirala hosted a luncheon meeting with the heads of the diplomatic missions in Kathmandu on Saturday, November 24, 2012 to sound out their views about the unconstitutional call of the president that asked the political parties to find out a common candidate for a new prime minister within a week. Certainly, the diplomats will not accept the move of the president made going against the constitution.
Nobody knows what the president will do if the political parties cannot come up with a common candidate for the office of a new prime minister within the seven days he has set for them. It is most likely that the political parties will not be able to come with a common candidate in view of their past performances in building a political consensus. Whether the president will use the Article 38 (2) to call on the political parties to find out a majority candidate remains to be seen after the political parties miss the deadline for choosing a common candidate for a new prime minister. The political trend shows that the president might do so.
The opposition coalition can find a common candidate of its own but such a candidate needs to pass the tests of other political parties including the ruling coalition. Clearly, the ruling coalition is not for accepting the candidate of the opposition coalition rather the ruling coalition wants the opposition coalition to join its government but the opposition coalition has been rejecting so far even though it might be the best way of breaking the current political deadlock. Then, if the president calls on the political parties to form a majority government even then the opposition coalition has no majority without the support of either the UCPN-Maoist or the UDMF. Both the UCPN-Maoist and the UDMF have been holding on to the alliance between them and has been in power. They are not in a mood to break the alliance and assist the NC or the CPN-UML in forming a new government.
Some of the political pundits have already floated the idea of making the President of Terai Madheshi Democratic Party (TMDP) Mahanta Thakur as a common candidate for a new prime minister. There is a chance that the ruling coalition might agree on it but the opposition coalition will not have what they have been looking for so far. The opposition coalition can join the government led by Mahanta Thakur that might be clearly a solution to the current political crisis. To this end, the opposition coalition has to be sincere and act sincerely to hold the elections to a new CA. However, the NC leaders want to see one of them becoming the next prime minister. So, the NC leaders are unlikely to take this option, too.
The CPN-Maoist has put forward its secretary general Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’ as a candidate for a new prime minister. It is nothing but a joke. The leaders of the CPN-Maoist talk and act like the clowns in a circus for the entertainment of the audience. Practically, the leaders of the CPN-Maoist are the bunch of clowns that can say anything whether it makes sense or not. They also said that they would not accept any decision made by the four major political parties such as UCPN-Maoist, UDMF, NC, and CPN-UML. So, they might add some problems to the current political crisis.
Assuming that the political parties could not build a consensus on finding a common candidate for a new prime minister, and the president would call on the political parties for choosing a majority candidate, then the NC and CPN-UML leaders don’t have a majority even with the support of so many small parties. They need the support of either the UCPN-Maoist or the UDMF for forming a new government. The UCPN-Maoist has its man as the head of the government so there is no possibility of supporting the NC but the UDMF might support the NC. However, the UDMF also will ask for the office of prime minister rather than simply supporting the NC for forming its government. As such, the NC does not have a chance to form a new government but the UDMF will not take a chance of forming a new government with the support of the NC and the CPN-UML, as the NC and the CPN-UML have been deadly against the federalism and federal states for which so many brave Madheshi people have sacrificed their beautiful lives. The UDMF is unlikely to waste the sacrifice of so many of its cadres. If the UDMF forms a new government with the support of the NC and the CPN-UML only to meet the power hunger of some political leaders then it will be suicidal to the UDMF.
Therefore, the head of state: President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav is doing the political somersaults without having any meanings at all. Probably, the president might have taken such an unconstitutional step just to show the opposition coalition that he is doing some favor to the opposition coalition calling on them to form a new government after the President has approved the budget for the FY 2012 favoring the government. Now, it is time for the president to show some favor to the opposition coalition. If it is so, the president is taking unnecessary political risk that will surely take him to the political cliff from where he might fall to an abyss from where he might never be able to come back.
The president has resolved the political crisis to some extent accepting the budget presented by the finance minister of the Bhattarai government but the president also has created another political crisis calling on the political parties to find out a common candidate for a new prime minister. Unfortunately, the idea of helping the government in holding the elections to a new CA has not popped up on the mind of the president. Surely, only the elections to a new CA can break the current political deadlock.
The coalition government of the UCPN-Maoist and the UDMF has already decided to ask the president for the explanation for his unconstitutional action. The coalition members have first labeled the presidential call on the political parties to find a common candidate for a new prime minister as an unconstitutional, and then have tried to find out whether the legal action or political would be more effective to challenge the president’s unconstitutional step. They decided to take the political path. So, they decided to ask the president for the explanation of his unconstitutional move.
At the same time, Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has said that he is ready to take bullets rather than quitting his office following the unconstitutional move of the president. The prime minister has made it clear to the president and any other persons that he is not going to follow the unconstitutional step of the president. Then, the president has only the military force to use against the prime minister if he wants to remove the prime minister from the office. However, the Nepal Army has repeatedly stated that the army will follow the order of the legitimate government. So, the army might simply refuse to take the unconstitutional order of the president. Thus, the President Yadav is heading to the political cliff. If he does not take measures not to reach the political climax then the political parties, the nation and the president might end up in disastrous.