Interim legislature - Its composition and parties’ greed

The due date for dissolving the HoR and the formation of Interim Legislature was 26 November, 2006 as agreed upon by the SPA and the Maoists. However, after waiting for more than forty-five days, the Interim Constitution (IC) was promulgated by the reinstated HoR and approved by the Interim Legislature (IL) yesterday (15 January), which came into being the same day. With the accomplishment of these two, of course the formation of the interim government is still due, the goal-post of holding elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) has come nearer. The delay was not unexpected as immediate UN involvement in the monitoring armies and arms was not possible. In spite of Ian Martin’s visits to the UN headquarters a number of times in the past, it is impossible to cut short the process of involving the UN in the peace process anywhere in the world. The eight parties have rightly engaged the ex-Gorkha army men to hasten the monitoring of the Maoist soldiers in their designated cantonments and the Nepali Army in their barracks. This has really speeded up the adoption of the IC and the convening of the IL.

The IL is really an extended Parliament as its 209 members belong to the ill fated House of Representatives and the National Assembly. In addition to them, there are 73 Maoists and 48 representatives from all parties except the RPP and the RJP. It can be rightly said that this extended House has been formed on the strength of three Bs — ballots, bullets and back-door entries.

Now, the time has come when the reality and the futility of the previous HoR can be evaluated. The new IL has got a kind of continuity as it has 209 members elected by the people directly or indirectly at a particular time. The Maoists have earned their share through their strength of guns. It became easy to constitute the IL on the strength of the reinstated House

The hitch between the SPA and the Maoists over the dissolution of the reinstated House was solved by them when they decided to go in for the extended House. All the sitting members of the HoR and the NA totalling 209 were accepted as the members of the interim House except those who had opposed the People’s Movement. It was really a mean between the demand of the Maoists to dissolve the reinstated House and the demand of the Seven Party Alliance to continue the House. Since it was agreed to include the Maoists in the interim government to hold Constituent Assembly elections, it became obligatory to include the Maoists in drafting the Interim Constitution and the Interim Legislature. The number of Maoists was fixed at 73 at par with the CPN-UML.

The role played by some civil society leaders in the People’s Movement put moral pressure on the parties, including the Maoists, to give due share to them in the formation of the IL. Keeping these things in view, the strength of the IL was raised to 330 including 48 members to be nominated from civil society in consultation with the parties. Contrary to this consensus, on 9 January, 2007, top leaders of the four major political parties reached another agreement to share the remaining seats among the eight parties including the Maoists themselves. Accordingly, the NC will have 85 seats, the CPN-UML-83, CPN-Maoists-83,Nepali Congress (D)-48, Janamorcha Nepal-9. RPP-6, NSP(A)-5, NWPP-4, Unified Left Front-3, RJP-2, NSP-1 and the Society of Disabled-1 in the IL.

It is commonly felt that with the inclusion of the Maoists, the number game of the IL could have been settled in the first instance, as there was no need to increase the number of the representatives from the parties. Secondly, had the significant role of civil society along with professional organisations in the movement been objectively evaluated, these seats could have been exclusively reserved for them and the eight parties would have recommended their names jointly. This could have made the get-up of the House relevant and useful. Allocating some of these seats to those who were defeated in the last general election would means insulting the voters on the one hand, and it also weakens the claims of elected Members of Parliament that they should continue in the extended House as people’s representatives. They have really succeeded in becoming the members of the IL with the approval of the Maoists. It is interesting to note that some of the nominees of the Maoists do come from civil society. Had this been followed by all parties it would have made the IL a glorious House indeed.

The way the 48 seats have been distributed among the parties themselves, one is at a loss to see that the political parties have hardly learnt any lesson from the past. The saying “Old habits die hard” seems to be true. The leaders of the political parties have not given up or even reduced their greed for power and position, which had failed the democratic system and pushed the country into a prolonged period of conflict.

Prof Mishra is ex-election commissioner