Election or Confrontation in Nepal
Election or Confrontation in Nepal
Siddhi B Ranjitkar
August 21, 2012
Head of State President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav had said that an election to a new Constituent Assembly (CA) could not be held without a national political consensus means putting an end to the election, as a national political consensus was next to impossible. One of the questions was whether the ceremonial Head of State had such rights to say, the next question was where the Head of State was leading the country to, and the third question was whether the Head of State was about to take over the state power, and finally whether the Head of State wanted to be a twenty-first-century dictator or simply he wanted to turn over the power to one of his former colleagues of NC provoking an unconstitutional confrontation. A new CA was to complete the crafting of a new constitution that has been left unfinished by the previous CA dissolved on May 27, 2012.
On Friday, August 17, 2012, Head of State President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav refused to issue the election-related two ordinances stating these ordinances were irrelevant, as the Election Commission had already announced that the election to a new CA scheduled for November 22, 2012 could not be held due to the lack of a political consensus on it. The election-related laws remained not amended.
The Election Commission needed certain time to prepare for the election; so, it could not hold the election on November 22, 2012 but the election should be held at any time in the future. Nepal had no alternative to the election if it were to break the current political deadlock. So, Head of State President Yadav needed to cooperate with the current government on holding the election to a new CA at any time feasible in the future. However, he had first blocked the election-related two ordinances obviously blocking the election to a new CA in the future. Then, he came out openly that the election could not be held without a national political consensus. Everybody knew that a political consensus was not possible as long as the opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML did not back track from its stand on not accepting the identity-based federalism, and the ruling coalition of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF also did not step back from its stand on for the identity-based federalism. Currently, none of the coalitions was in a mood to relent their stand.
The opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML had been deadly against the election to a new CA, and opted to grab the power by any means. The opposition leaders stated that the declaration of the election to a new CA was unconstitutional. So, the opposition guys had declared that they would boycott the election. They believed and feared that they could not compete the ruling coalition of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF in the election. So, the only option left to them was to force the current prime minister out of the office by any means possible. They had pushed Head of State President Yadav hard to fire the prime minister but the Head of State stood the pressure so far stating he was not going to cross over the constitutional boundary. The recent events showed that the Head of State was clearly joining the opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML refusing to issue the election-related ordinances and publicly stating that the election to a new CA was not possible without a national political consensus.
If anybody were to take a look at the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007, s/he would find that the Head of State was a ceremonial and had to follow the prime minister’s recommendations for anything to do concerning the state affairs. He was a politically neutral and could not take the side of the ruling parties or the opposition parties. So, he quit his party: NC after he was elected to the office of the Head of State in 2008.
Then, first, he breached the constitution refusing to follow the recommendations of the prime minister for issuing the election-related ordinances, and denied the possibility of holding the election to a new CA. Then, he publicly said that the election to a new CA was not possible without a national political consensus. Clearly, he had boosted morale of the opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML that had been against the election and that had been for grabbing the power anyhow.
Taking the side of the opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML, the president had clearly indicated that the ceremonial president wanted to be an active one. In fact, he had been already active, as he had already done two unconstitutional things: one was the rejection of two-election-related ordinances, and the second was publicly speaking against the election to a new CA that had directly adversely affected the elections. Then, the question was where the president wanted to lead the country to, going against the election and breaching the constitution. Judging from his recent activities, he wanted to lead the country to the direct unconstitutional confrontation rather than leading them to the constitutional confrontation means the election to a new CA.
The direct unconstitutional confrontation was to fire the current government and appoint one of the leaders of the NC to the office of prime minister. In this case, firstly, the ruling coalition of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF would not accept the firing of the duly elected prime minister by the ceremonial president. The ruling leaders would say that only the elected legislature had the right to elect and fire a prime minister; so, firing of the current prime minister by the Head of State would be unconstitutional; and the prime minister would not quit the office as the order of the Head of State had breached the constitution. Secondly, if the Head of State were to force the prime minister out of office, the ruling coalition would run a parallel government; the ruling coalition had declared it. So, the ruing coalition and the opposition coalition including the Head of State would directly unconstitutionally confront with each other. In such a case, only the people might decide the winner.
Such an unhealthy and unconstitutional confrontation was what exactly the leaders of the opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML had been seeking for. They believed that that was the only way of taking back the power lost to the ruling coalition of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF. Then, the Head of State joining the opposition coalition, such an unconstitutional confrontation had been more real than never before. Surely, the consequences of such unconstitutional confrontation were difficult to predict but might cause tremendous sufferings to the innocent Nepalis whose lives might be disrupted by violence and counter violence if it were to turn into violent. The Head of State and the opposition coalition should be held accountable for such consequences, if they were not to steer the country to the smooth political transformation holding the election to a new CA.
Some of the leaders of CPN-UML had been even asking the NC leaders to name the next prime minister but the NC leaders had been resisting it for various reasons including the reason for having a number of claimants for the office of prime minister. The NC had three contenders for the office of prime minister. They were President of NC Sushil Koirala, Senior Leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, and Former Parliamentary Leader Ram Chandra Poudel. Since the CA-cum-parliament was dissolved on May 27, 2012, claim of Poudel for the office of prime minister had been significantly faded away, as his claim stood on the NC statute that stated the parliamentary party leader would be automatically prime minister. Then, Deuba was strong enough to stake his claim for the office of prime minister, as he had held the office of prime minister several times in the past, and he was the strong leader of his faction of the NC. So, Koirala needed to garner the support of NC leaders for his claim for the office of prime minister. That was why Koirala was so shy to name the candidate for a next prime minister. One of the CPN-UML leaders had even labeled the NC leaders impotent for announcing a next prime minister, and claimed the opportunity of forming a new government.
Then, joining the opposition of NC and CPN-UML, the Head of State wanted to be a twenty-first-century dictator. Nobody knew what was the ambition of the son of a farmer turned into an elected Head of State due to the highly fluid political situation at the time when he was elected to the office of Head of State in 2008. However, he had been showing the indication of trying to be a dictator not following the recommendations of the prime minister for the two election-related ordinances and his advisor telling the media people that the Head of State was not for accepting to do whatever the prime minister recommended him to do. The advisor to the prime minister told in public that the Head of State had breached the constitution not following the recommendations of the prime minister.
One thing the Head of State needed to do was to flip the pages of the recent history of dictators. For example, the then King Gyanendra Shah became a dictator in February 2005. His dictatorial regime lasted for 13 months. He provoked the Nepalis not only to remove him but also to destroy the dynastic Shah monarchy and declare Nepal a democratic federal republic. Even more recently, the Libyan dictator Gaddafi and the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarack: both of them long-time dictators of their respective country had been forcibly removed not only from the respective office but also Gaddafi got killed by rebels and Mubarack was serving the jail term. These are the fate of the twenty-first–century dictators.
If Head of State President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav were to venture to be a twenty-first-century dictator, it would be quixotic venture, as the opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML and some other leaders of minor political parties wanted him to be; nobody would able to stop him from being so but he would be able to stay on in power not more than 40 days as opposed to 40 years Gaddafi had stayed on. He would strengthen the federalists, as did Gyanendra Shah to the republicans. Certainly, then, federalists would emerge as a strong political force and institutionalize the federalism with identity-based federal provinces to the disappointment of the opposition coalition of NC and CPN-UML. Then, Dr Ram Baran Yadav might go back to raise his water buffalos or would find himself hanged on a public tree depending upon how much his dictatorship would be instrumental in taking the lives of innocent Nepalis.
If Head of State Yadav were to just appoint one of his former colleagues or even his former boss to the office of prime minister then it would not only provoke the wrath of the people for breaching the constitution but also might provoke the strong protest by the coalition of UCPN-Maoist and UDMF against such breach of the constitution. Recently, the UCPN-Maoist and UDMF along with other like-minded political parties formed a Federal Democratic Republican Alliance (FDRA): a boarder coalition that would fight for federalism with identity-based federal provinces clearly to counter the opposition of federalism by the coalition of NC and CPN-UML, and to fight against any unconstitutional moves of the Head of State.
The best path for the Head of State President Dr Ram Baran Yadav to follow would be the constitutional path, and to take all political parties to the election to a new CA issuing the election-related ordinances rather than stating holding elections was the business of the Election Commission not that of the government. Then only, the first elected Head of State could make a history of his own institutionalizing the achievements made by the people’s movement otherwise the Head of State would lead the people to another more fierce movement than any other previous ones. He should beware of it.