For the best cuts
As the Constituent Assembly has fulfilled one of its most important responsibilities — declaring the implementation of republic — the government has now to start putting the declaration into action speedily, such as having the Narayanhity palace vacated within fifteen days. Palace employees took down the royal coat of arms that had been fluttering in the Narayanhity for decades which was later replaced with the national flag. At the same time, the political parties are expected to address other pressing concerns, particularly the formation of government. But strangely, the same old government elected by the now defunct legislature-parliament is still in place, violating all parliamentary norms, practices and logic. Understandably, this odd situation exists because the incumbents have wanted to use it as a bargaining chip for power sharing. The first meeting of the CA had been delayed by more than ten years just because of a deadlock over the post of president. At last, however, the three biggest parties agreed to create the posts of president and vice president. Later, after the republican decision, the CA incorporated minimum provisions relating to these posts into the Interim Constitution through the fourth amendment to it.
The position of president is understood to have a role with certain prerogatives, but real power will lie with the prime minister. This role appears to come closer to that of the constitutional king under the 1990 constitution — for example, as the protector of the constitution, as the supreme commander of the Nepal Army, having powers to declare a state of emergency, or to issue ordinances. These functions are intended to be decorative. More details are yet to be worked out, tabled in the CA and passed. Indeed, somebody will have to act as head of state, whatever it may be called. How this role should be filled during the transitional period is for the political parties to decide.
But what is of supreme importance is that there must be no two power centres during this period, as such a state of affairs would create unnecessary conflicts, impeding transitional governance on the one hand and going against the electoral mandate, particularly when the two posts of head of state and of government are to be held by two persons of different political parties. What should also be kept in mind is the need for clear delineation of the president’s duties, responsibilities and powers, as there may arise conflicting and expedient interpretations of the constitutional provisions if these take interpretation for granted according to norms and universal practice. We should learn from our own experience — how the stakeholders had differently construed various constitutional provisions — e.g. those relating to the dissolution of the parliament, nomination of Upper House members, the honorific role of protector of the constitution, and Article 127 that dealt with powers to remove constitutional obstructions. Undoubtedly, the next government will have to run on political consensus. But it is also necessary that no political party insist on getting more than its CA strength will justify.