Much ado

The difference over whether the budget session of Parliament should be recessed or prorogued appears to be a case of making much ado about nothing. For days, the lawmakers and their political parties have been unable to sort out the difference. Now, the dispute has been referred to the top leaders of the eight parties. The Nepali Congress favours proroguing it but the Maoists are insisting on a recess. The Maoists see the advantage of recess in the relatively short period of time that is needed for the House to meet again. According to Dina Nath Sharma, chief whip of the CPN-Maoist, “We should go to the villages after declaring a recess, and if we come across problems fit for the House, it should address them”. For its part, the CPN-UML appears to be open on the question. The Congress argues that the House can meet at short notice even if the session is prorogued in case of emergency, as the Prime Minister can call a new session after consulting the Speaker.

Both sides are right in their own ways. But the difference between their options is small. What would, however, make a real difference would be the dissolution of Parliament before going to the polls, a demand that has been made by the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF). But the Interim Constitution rules it out for good reasons. Indeed, in parliamentary democracies, the practice prevails of dissolving the parliament while announcing a new election date. That applies especially when a system has

been established and everything is working according to rule. But the present period is abnormal, transitional, fluid, and therefore fraught with dangers. Jana Andolan II has given the eight parties the mandate to establish a better system through the constituent assembly polls. In this context, dissolution of the parliament would likely prove to be a road to hell, particularly because it would create a political vacuum at a time when certain people — of both the domestic and foreign varieties, including Nepal-based diplomats in disregard of diplomatic nicety — are already writing off the legitimacy of the eight-party government in case the November 22 polls do not come off.

That said, however, the eight parties, their interim government and the Election Commission owe it to the people and to fairness to take all measures to ensure that nobody could take undue advantage of their incumbency to influence the election outcome. That implies the need to prevent possible misuse of government machinery and resources. In the

past, even after the 1990 pro-democracy movement, successive top EC officials could not take firm and independent stands on issues that had much to do with the holding of free and fair polls, particularly when such stands threatened to put the ruling party at a disadvantage. As the election date is only 89 days away, the current occupants of the EC will face their real test in days to come, as they will be called upon to take tough decisions for free and fair polls. All attention needs to be directed towards this end instead of wasting time on whether to recess or prorogue the session.