Beside the point

A three-party task force has been formed to resolve the issues of past agreements, power sharing and constitutional amendment. But who gets what is secondary to the imperative of pursuing the fundamental democratic processes. Each political party has claimed to protect and promote the people’s rights and freedoms and democratic norms. But in the process the parties have neglected a fundamental democratic tenet and a universal practice — the old government cannot continue to rule after the new parliament has assumed its responsibility. The leaders may argue that, after all, the same three main parties together constitute more than two-thirds majority in the Constituent Assembly as in the previous legislature-parliament. But the difference is a fundamental one. The people should have got a chief executive by the time the new parliament commenced. The old government no longer has any basis for existence, even though the leaders might try to justify this on the grounds of the doctrine of necessity.

It is unfortunate, too, that most of the country’s ‘political analysts’, ‘constitutional experts’ and civil society have tended to take partisan lines. This state of affairs will hardly promote a free public discussion of the issues of vital importance to the nation and democracy. Most of these public watchdogs have spent the main part of their energy and brains on questions, such as whether one party should take the two top posts — prime minister and president — rather than on the tenability or otherwise of the old government. The taking hostage of the process of government formation in an attempt to force one’s conditions will haunt the parties concerned for a long time to come, but in the process it has also given cause for concern to all Nepalis who are pinning high hopes on the building of a ‘New Nepal’.

Signs of a package deal on power sharing have now brightened after the single largest party in the CA showed its considerable flexibility on its rivals’ demands for ‘respectable’ power sharing and constitutional amendment. But process and principle are much more important than the political parties’ interests of the moment. Today, one party may have won more seats, tomorrow another may, and the day after tomorrow, still another. While consensus is to guide transitional governance, it is, however, not sure that the existing pact will stick. Through understanding and cooperation, the parties might well divide up responsibility and power, keeping in mind the kind of the people’s mandate. But, when it comes to claiming one’s right, it does not behove any party — now reduced in numerical strength to less than one-sixth of the total available for the direct election — to obstruct the political process over the top post, even though a ‘ceremonial’ one. There are no rules or practices that prescribe that a president must be an active politician or a non-politician, or that prime minister and president should belong to one party or different parties. The most important things are that the electorate’s wish must not be distorted, the transitional politics of understanding derailed, and the constitution-making process must not suffer.