Political imbroglio: A review of the King’s road map

On the occasion of the completion of one year of his direct rule, King Gyanendra made a state of the nation address. The gist of which was: Terrorist activities have been largely controlled and limited to sporadic and insignificant incidents; the nation has been saved from being a failed state; the people’s utmost desire is for peace as gathered from his personal contacts with the masses; previous elected governments had themselves dissolved elected bodies and had failed to hold elections in spite of numerous opportunities provided to them, but now election to all the bodies, including the national legislature, would be held within 15 months starting with the municipalities and this process had already begun; the Crown’s interest is only to uphold the glorious tradition of history and look after the well-being of the people; it is the Nepalis who will determine the development agenda and outline their interests and clearly the verdict is for a democratic society befitting the aspirations and realities of the 21st century Nepal. Finally, the King appealed to the people to narrow down their differences, to bury the bitter past and to work together to build a secure and prosperous future through democratic means.

How we all wish he would work conscientiously to make this visionary rhetoric a reality! Even as the King made claims about the control of terrorist activities, the Maoists had just one day earlier attacked the military and administrative establishments in Tansen, killing 11 securitymen and injuring dozens. Only a couple of weeks ago, the Maoists had attacked police posts in Thankot and Dadhikot, killing at least a dozen unarmed police personnel. This led the authorities to impose night curfews for a week in Kathmandu and a day curfew on Magh 7 with the intention of disrupting a massive peaceful rally planned by the agitating seven-party alliance.

The recent attacks in Tansen, Nepalgunj and Bhojpur show that the Maoists’ back has not been broken and clearly there cannot be a military solution to the conflict. With a continuing decline in the GDP, security and other expenses galloping and the lag in revenue collections, how long can the nation sustain such a chronic deficit?

The King has repeatedly spoken of the need to strengthen democracy and democratic process and feels that the municipal election is all-important in this regard. However, for a meaningful election, peace and the atmosphere conducive to holding a free and fair election are prerequisites and both these are currently missing. The seven-party alliance is boycotting the elections on the grounds that an unconstitutional government is conducting it. But it is to be remembered that this does not necessarily allow the alliance to use force and intimidation tactics to obstruct elections in the same manner that the government should not disrupt the parties’ peaceful rallies.

Initially, the people were even prepared to condone the King’s virtual coup d’etat thinking it might bring about peace and return to constitutional rule. One year down the road, the situation has worsened, as this regime has not made any efforts towards peace and reconciliation with both the Maoists and the political parties.

The parties that traditionally supported constitutional monarchy are now neutral on it and the republican slogan is gaining currency. The alliance and Maoists made a 12-point agreement that included opposition to authoritarian monarchy, the renunciation of violence, killings, intimidation and extortion of unarmed civilians and the embracing of multiparty democracy by the Maoists. Unfortunately, the Maoists have begun to pursue a course of violence and intimidation.

Thus, the country is plunged into a triangular tussle — the King attempting to use the conflict to consolidate his power by sidelining the parties and by refusing to talk to the Maoists; the parties blaming the King for having derailed democracy, usurped power and turned the clock back to an authoritarian rule; and the Maoists’ continuation of pursuit of capturing state power through violence and ushering in a ‘New Order’ in the form of a republican state and rule of obsolete one-party dictatorship.

In the prevailing political quagmire, it is only the King’s wise act of statesmanship that can bring respite to the nation. The King must act in accordance with the wishes of the people who have unequivocally expressed their earnest desire for peace, democracy and security.

So it will behove the King to honour the wishes of the people and the entire international fraternity by restoring democracy and the constitutional process through immediate annulment of the ongoing municipal elections, relinquishing of executive authority, entering a dialogue with the parties and forming an all-powerful national government that would negotiate peace with the Maoists and hold elections for the national legislature or a constituent assembly.

Thapa is a Mahasamiti member, NC(D)