Time of reckoning

The political processes in the past few weeks have left a lot to be desired. First, the political parties have found it difficult to agree on how to implement republicanism. The delay in framing constitutional provisions to end monarchy has also delayed the nomination of the 26 members to the Constituent Assembly without which the Assembly would remain incomplete. On Tuesday, the swearing-in ceremony of the CA members was delayed by almost three hours. The members waiting for the ceremony were told that the Prime Minister was asleep. On Wednesday, the Assembly was again to meet at 11 am for the implementation of the republic in accordance with the Interim Constitution-2063. These delays clearly imply a mockery of the democratic system in Nepal, and a lack of a sense of accountability among party leaders. More ominously, they hint at a deep level of mistrust among political parties and a long road ahead for the peace process. The future of the Nepal Army has also figured prominently in this debate.

The parties have not been able to agree upon the modalities of power sharing. Although the political parties are unanimous on the issue of republicanism, they have serious differences over how to fill in the space left vacant by monarchy. The cause of the differences is not what kind of structure should replace the monarchy, but rather a deep level of mistrust among the major political parties. Any structure put in place now would only be an interim measure to be approved or substituted by a new provision during the constitution drafting process. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, however, fear that if they do not put check and balance mechanisms in place, then the Maoists might effect a complete takeover of the state with a blatant disregard for rule of law and human rights. The Maoists, on the other hand, believe that if “parallel” power structures are put in place, then they will not be allowed the freedom to run government programmes, and would be prematurely forced out of the government.

Reports coming out in the newspapers indicate a general unwillingness of the Nepal Army to work under a Maoist-led government. It is understandable that the Army would not want to work under the leadership of a party that had been its arch-enemy for almost a decade. Things, however, have changed. The Nepal Army has to accept the reality, and be prepared to work under any democratically elected government. The next weeks and months would be a time of reckoning for the Nepal Army, and its commitment to democratic processes in the country. There also needs to be a corresponding change in the attitude of the political parties that have managed to find a place in the Constituent Assembly. Instead of focusing on the symptoms, the parties should try to address the deeper problem: that of building trust and developing a democratic culture. The parties can declare an implementation of the republic, even while agreeing that the clauses related to republic will remain as transitional measures until the drafting of a new constitution. In the meantime, it is time to focus on confidence building measures, and the unfinished peace process.