Hold elections

Since the release of Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala from house arrest last Friday, the consultations among the political parties have gathered greater momentum for evolving a common agenda for their movement aimed at achieving ‘total democracy’ and restoring peace. Koirala has separately met the leaders of several political parties, including NC-D president Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-UML politburo member K. P. Oli. The leaders are reported more or less to have agreed to reach a consensus on the matter. A number of other important political leaders, including CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, are yet to be freed, and this may pose some problems for consensus-building. Stating that the parliament is the meeting place of the King and the political parties, Koirala has renewed his demand for the restoration of the House of Representatives. Oli, after meeting Koirala, said that a dialogue with the King is possible only after the political parties reach a consensus.

But the palace may have its own agenda or time-frame for any possible meeting with political parties. It has never been amenable to the idea of the restoration of the House. But then, even the political parties have differed among themselves whether the House should be brought back to life. They only vaguely called for an end to ‘regression.’ This does not provide a road map for the country. Besides, it is unlikely that the major constitutional forces will agree to revive the House. An argument against the restoration is that the House, elected for a five-year term, has already crossed this time limit, though in a dissolved state, and that it cannot now fully reflect the popular will. So restoration does not appear to be a practical proposition. However, there is no dispute that the best way of restoring democracy is to hold the general elections.

The constitutional forces may have realised by now that without coming together they are unable to resolve the pressing problems of the country. They cannot hold even the elections alone, not to speak of dealing with the Maoists effectively. If the experience of recent years, including the past two months, has taught them this lesson, it will be good for the country. If the House cannot be revived and the elections will take some time, how should the nation be governed in the meantime? It is for the legitimate constitutional forces to find an acceptable arrangement. Naturally, the goodwill and support of the international community will remain behind the political parties because in a democracy they represent the people. That said, however, it does not mean the constitutional forces can make any compromises that may undermine the people’s sovereign rights.