Fluid situation : Great opportunity and big challenges

There are many demerits of living, as we are doing, in a fluid and transitional state of a country. However, there is in such a situation a big advantage of new openings to choose from.

Currently, we have decided to exercise a freedom to opt for a political system under a Constituent Assembly. What that system should be or would be is not yet decided. There is nonetheless a big opening offering great opportunity which comes mixed with big challenges. It is for sure that the parliamentary system of government has proved a failure in our society. It failed in 1960 and again in 2002 despite many remarkable improvements in it. Hence, our thoughts should not remain confined to only the parliamentary system. Instead, we must explore many other systems for adoption as we have to adopt one or the other.

Let us look at the presidential system if it can fit into our historical, social and cultural backgrounds. A presidential system, unlike the parliamentary one, will be a square peg in a square hole in terms of replacing the monarchical system. It can better reflect the basic principle of lokatantric ganatantra (democratic republic) as the presidential system like that of the USA is both democratic and republican. The advantage of a presidential system over the parliamentary system is that neither the executive can dissolve the legislature nor the legislature can dismiss the executive. That will definitely lead to stability of political institutions, clear separation of powers, and also guard against interference from the political parties in administration.

There will, moreover, be no mutual fear between the executive and the legislature of mutual destruction, no political pressure from the party in power in running a unified, cohesive and stable administration. We know how much we suffered from these problems during our parliamentary experiments. Under a presidential system, there will be less number of political parties which are most likely to be polarised into two camps — rightist and leftist, conservative and liberal or democratic and progressive. In such a case, the people will be spared the existing confusion of too many parties, too many ideologies and too many leaders. There will be greater clarity of parties, principles and personalities.

In this context of Nepal, we can even surmise that most of the leftist parties like the CPM-Maoist, CPM-UML, CPN-ML, Jana Morcha, and Nepal Workers and Peasants Party will cluster together in the leftist or progressive camp. Similarly, the Nepali Congress, NC-D, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Sadbhavana Party, etc. can come together with a democratic and people’s welfare bias.

The US presidential system looks suited to our efforts of state restructuring as far as the executive branch and its relationship with other branches of the state are concerned. But when it comes to legislative organisation, it is more appropriate to follow the German electoral system under which half of the law makers are elected by direct votes of the people and the other half on the basis of proportional representation of all sections of society. We can have only one House instead of two under the parliamentary system.

At the local level, we can even follow the Swiss system of canton governance. It will both serve the objective of devolution of power to the local bodies, community representation and self-rule without delving into the confusing and controversial system of ethnic administrative divisions. The current ideas of federalism and autonomous regions propounded by our ethnic groups and deprived classes are too complicated to be practical. To make sure that there is no longer any centralisation and concentration of power in Kathmandu, the Nepali capital should be shifted to somewhere outside the Valley. It is more advisable to locate the executive, legislative and judicial branches in three separate places.

The executive government can be seated in Narayangarh, Nawalparasi or Bhairahawa for transportation and communication convenience for all the people of the country. Similarly the parliament, which should be unicameral, can be located in Mahendranagar, and the Supreme Court in Biratnagar or in Jhapa. That way all parts of the country will be treated equally in terms of development.

Kathmandu can be declared a cultural and tourist city for relaxation. Once the different branches of the government are out of the Valley, the increasingly unmanageable crowds will move out of the Valley and spread all over the country leaving the three cities more livable and healthy. At the current rate of physical development and migration into the Valley, it cannot but become a wretched place to live, to say the least. What we should aim at is to build the whole country on an equitable basis. This new thinking and approach to state and government restructuring will not only help unleash a wave of development but also help achieve regional development, decentralisation, and a kind of federalism.

Shrestha is a freelance journalist