Let parliament decide
Who will succeed Surya Bahadur Thapa and how is still a matter of speculation. The King may or may not have made up his mind, but signals from the Royal Palace suggest that it is thinking in terms of using the disputed Article 127. Some legal experts opine that a recourse to some article of the Constitution has to be taken to appoint prime minister and that, done with good intentions, “recourse to this article” can be justified in the absence of the parliament. However, other legal brains think the King cannot do so, and the spirit of Article 128 (2) can be captured in an all-party government fashioned after the interim goverment formed at the end of the 1990 pro-democracy movement, even though this article applied to the ad hoc arrangement of that period. The agitating five parties have arrayed themselves in favour of Article 128 (2). For still others, the reinstatement of the Deuba government will amount to a correction of the October 4 royal step.
Undoubtedly, for the 1990 Constitution to come back to life, there is no better alternative to the parliamentary elections. The palace has stressed polls, and among the criteria set for the next prime minister was the capability of initiating elections in the current Nepali year. But the five parties are asserting that it is not for the constitutional monarch to choose the prime minister and the criteria for the post and that the prime minister should be chosen on their recommendation. Moreover, in their view, polls are not possible in the present security environment. The way the palace has set qualifications and held consultations with political figures, including those having little popular base, it is not certain as yet that the five parties’ demand will be met.
But, if the King and the agitating leaders do not meet, there is no chance of an end to the impasse. The question of joint or separate audiences has come in the way of their meeting. The parties have decided to meet only collectively while the palace has sent out invitations for separate meetings. Neither side should make this an issue of prestige. What is important is the intention and the political solution of the triangular conflict. If the tussle goes on, more blood may be shed, which may include the derailment of established institutions and even foreign intervention. This is not in the interest of any Nepali, be it the King, the parties, the Maoists, the army or the general public. Indeed, the parties need not settle for anything less than the gains of the 1990 movement as enshrined in the Constitution. But let the elected parliament decide on all other matters, including the parties’ 18-point agenda, constitutional reforms or constituent assembly. For the political problems, political solutions must be sought. Legal niceties will lead us nowhere amid constitutional breakdown.