Unedifying spectacle

The Constituent Assembly (CA) meets today for its third meeting. The three political parties may or may not be able to strike a power sharing deal before that. But this matter holds much less importance than the supreme need to honour the people’s verdict by following the universal practice of government formation under a parliamentary system. But, worryingly, such a fundamental process has been openly obstructed. First of all, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has not resigned, subjecting his resignation so far to finding a political agreement with the Maoists. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML have also set certain conditions for the formation of a Maoist-led government. The political parties can bargain for a better deal. But, none of them has any right to defy the sovereign Nepali people, by holding their electoral verdict to ransom. Sadly, G P Koirala (and his party), and the CPN-UML for its support for the former’s ways, have done a great disservice to democracy. That violation will haunt them for a long time to come. The smaller parties that are criticising the ‘Dictatorship of Three Parties’ cannot escape blame, either, for their failure to demand that the Prime Minister resign first.

People and parties may have their likes and dislikes, and they may well vary in their preferences for candidates for the posts of President or Prime Minister. That is one thing. But, well before the first meeting of the CA, the Prime Minister should have tendered his resignation, all the more so because of the humiliation of his party in the election; and with its first meeting, his and his government’s legitimacy ceased to exist. But, the continuation of the same government stands as a stark oddity mocking the electorate, whereas the interim parliament that elected it has ceased to exist (along with the posts of its Speaker and members). In a democracy, no person or party can say that they will quit power at a time of their choosing, once the election outcome is out.

Nor can a party demand the fulfilment of its conditions (irrespective of their merit) before it allows the voters’ verdict to be carried out. However, every party can choose whether to join a government, or whether even to support any government. The Nepali electorate has made the CPN-Maoist the largest party in the country in full knowledge of the existence of the People’s Liberation Army and its arms, the YCL, as well as several other facts about the Maoists. But the democratic process cannot at all be held still just because of what any party or political leader thinks of the Maoists. In the present hung parliament, any party is free to lay its claim to the post of Prime Minister or President, or both, and lobby for other parties’ support. There may be a government led by the Maoists, or even a government composed of the parties other than the CPN-Maoist. If the political parties cannot reach a consensus on power sharing, let the issue of who becomes Prime Minister or President be decided on the floor of the Constituent Assembly. But the damage caused to democracy, and the insult to the voters, must be stopped — now.