Special session and after : Need for futuristic perspective
The special session of the parliament has directed the government to prepare the ground for a republic and proportional representation. The demand for implementing the agenda of republic is somewhat diluted in the wake of fierce bargaining that took place between the Maoists and other parties, particularly the Nepali Congress (NC). NC, whose leader is the Prime Minister of the Seven Party Alliance government, resisted the Maoist pressure to declare and execute the republican agenda, despite its willingness to join the chorus for parliamentary declaration whose execution could be made only after the constituent assembly election.
The other agenda — full proportional system of election — was rejected by the NC because of the previous EPA’s acceptance for a parallel system (first past the post and PR). Although the NC leaders have not yet given adequate justification for not favouring it, it is assumed that the full proportional system is likely to reduce NC seats in elections. It is also said by the NC leaders that PR system would limit the freedoms of those who want to contest elections as non-party candidates.
The Maoists, on the other hand, have clung to PR for two main reasons. First, it would add them a few more seats and avoid risk of being insignificant as compared to other parties in CA. Second, all its major constituencies for whose cause the CPN-Maoist had raised the voice during its 10-year-long armed insurgency may desert the party.
Developments taking place in Tarai along with the demand for full representation put up by the Dalits, Janjatis, Madhesis, gender activists and others have prompted the Maoists to support this cause. Other political parties barring the NC, some minor Left groups and the Rashtriya Janashakti Party have embraced the agenda of PR system.
The Maoist volte-face and the declaration of parliament supporting the motion for republic and PR system have given rise to a plethora of interpretations and speculations. What is more significant is that the Maoists have been able to rope in the largest communist party, CPN-UML, some other Left groups and the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) — and, as a result, the agenda of PR systemn was passed, while the motion for executing the republican plan was supported by the same communist groups. The RPP, however, continued to be a fence sitter on republic. Both the issues were passed by the simple majority, with the NC voting against the motions. Prime Minister G P Koirala abstained from voting on the ground of being the SPA Prime Minister. Ironically, however, the whip issued by the NC, whose president is Koirala himself, was ignored by him. What would be its repercussion on the party code of conduct in the parliamentary exercises in the future is subject to anybody’s guess.
Nepali politics is getting more and more intriguing every day. Party rules and conduct are flouted, agreements and understandings reached earlier by the same parties are easily floundered, the main issue of CA election sidelined in the wake of creating alliances, forming more cobwebs in which the leaders are entangled, opinions of Left and Right polarisations are aired, governance is sidetracked in the melee of anarchical trends. Nepal is drifting and no political party leader seems to have any time to ponder about the important issues. The people, foreign governments and supporters are fed up with the lack of vision for future direction and stability, let alone the consolidation of democracy as envisaged by the Jana Andolan II.
Although the SPA leadership is responsible for creating such a political mess, the NC could have moderated its position on PR system. Whether one likes it or not, or it is going to be the appropriate solution to the problem of achieving inclusive democracy or not, the PR election has become a common agenda of all groups. How can the NC resist this pressure when its vote bank and constituencies may shrink on this issue? Moreover, the argument that PR System is less democratic as it curtails individual freedoms is untenable. Nepal can adopt it on an experimental basis with a time-frame and may try to find out a much more suitable system on the basis of consensus.
The NC position has become somewhat contradictory after the declaration of the parliament. The Prime Minister, who thinks that he has to salvage the SPA in order to accomplish restructuring of state agenda along republican and federal lines, should try to take effective decisions without having to yield to the pressure of such party leaders who want to survive in politics by making the NC a party of status quo.
It is also true that Nepali politics cannot be polarised into Left and Right camps. Even if such a polarisation takes place, it will be between the status quo and proponents of change and democracy. Therefore, a futuristic perspective needs to be developed by those who want to survive in democratic politics.
Dr Baral is executive chairman, NCCS