No more mistakes

With the resignation on Friday by Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa to “pave the way for national consensus,” the palace has announced the start of royal consultations concerning the choice of a replacement. The palace notification sets down as qualifications for the post “a clean image and being capable of restoring peace in the country and forming an all-sided government for the purpose of initiating the parliamentary elections within the current Nepali year.” The Deuba government had been dismissed 20 months ago on the grounds that it had failed to hold the polls as promised. But the two governments formed since then have failed to promote national consensus, form an all-party or all-sided government, even set a date for polls, or resolve the Maoist issue through either talks or guns. Instead, a new and dangerous confrontation between the palace and the political parties has aggravated.

The riders attached to the search for candidates, though in themselves not unfair, may pose real problems. Who will decide what constitutes a clean image and under what criteria are hard to be sorted out. Though the concept of an all-sided government seems to be more inclusive, the questions of who, what organisations and individusls should be included and which among them really represent particular sections of society will pose extremely difficult problems. And which sections of society are to be represented? Even the largest council of ministers in Nepali history cannot hope to achieve this goal without bringing itself into sharp public controversy. At a time when a functional and sleek-looking cabinet is required for starting the electoral process and resuming talks with the Maoists, any stress on “all-sidedness” may stir a political hornet’s nest.

A safe course would be under an arrangement called an all-party government through representation of all the parties in the dissolved House of Representatives. And in this process, the crucial role of the CPN-UML and the Nepali Congress, the largest constitutional parties, cannot be discounted. This alone seems to offer any chance of dealing with the political and constitutional problems facing the country today. It is crystal clear that without holding the polls, the derailed constitution cannot be put back on the rails. Even to address most of the points in the five parties’ 18-point agenda for a political “forward movement,” elections are necessary. Therefore, the King and the agitating parties should meet for a serious, result-oriented dialogue, for which the five parties are reportedly working on a common position to present to the King. The country cannot make further mistakes in experimenting with “unrepresentative” governments, as exemplified in the Thapa and Chand cabinets.