November 14th, 2010 10:21 EST
Many Questions Still Unanswered When it Comes to Nepal's Political Party
By Yuba Nath Lamsal
Even a layman in Nepal is starting to ask if the Constituent Assembly will ever write the new constitution. This is because the political parties that were entrusted with the job do not possess the capability and interest in writing the constitution and steering the country out of the crisis facing it.
The parties and leaders still claim that they can accomplish the job. But the people are not prepared to believe them and are almost certain that the parties are neither going to write the constitution nor conclude the peace process. The rhetoric that the party leaders are making is just to confuse and mislead the people and the international community.
During the four-year journey since the peace process began, people have come to realise that the parties are not trustworthy because what they say is not meant to be accomplished. Public opinion about the political parties is so poor that the parties and leaders have simply lost credibility in the eyes of the people.
There is marked inconsistency between what the leaders say and what they do. This had been exactly the case prior to Jana Angolan II. The people saw the parties as being power hungry, corrupt and undependable, no different from the old corrupt monarchists. The Maoist insurgency was born and grew out of this situation and cashed in on the people`s apathy towards the multi-party political system and the party leaders.
King Gyanendra also tried to take advantage of this poor state of politics and dwindling credibility of the political parties. Despite their apathy towards the leaders, the people, however, refused to accept the king`s dictatorship. The people had not forgotten the bitter taste of the kings who posed as the biggest obstacle in the institutionalisation of democracy in Nepal.
The people were not willing to accept the king`s dictatorship as an alternative to democracy and the political parties. When King Gyanendra imposed his absolute rule thereby restricting the people`s rights and political activities, the people, therefore, again rose against the authoritarian regime - not as an endorsement of the parties` misconduct but as a struggle for their own rights and freedom.
Even after the declaration of the republic, the leaders have not learnt lessons nor have they changed their behaviour. The leaders never tell the truth and the people must guess the implied meaning of their remarks. The people will believe the leaders only when their words are translated into action, which is not often the case with us.
When the leaders can`t even given the country a new government even after four months, what can the people possibly expect of them? How then can the people trust them to write and promulgate the new constitution in the next six months? Moreover, the parties have demonstrated their inability and incompetence by failing to write the constitution in two years - the period the interim constitution had initially mandated.
After failing to write the constitution in two years, they agreed to extend the life of the Constituent Assembly. The parties and their leaders have serious differences on different agendas but were able to demonstrate unprecedented unity in extending the tenure of the Constituent Assembly, through which they shamelessly have been able to secure their perks and benefits. This shows where their focus and concentration lie.
More shameful is the situation that has occurred after the extension of the Constituent Assembly. It has been more than six months since the life of the Constituent Assembly was extended. But the political parties have virtually done nothing so far as writing the constitution is concerned. They have failed to agree on several matters whereas they have not even touched some contentious issues.
Although a high-level task force comprising the top leaders of the parties in Parliament was constituted, the main issues have so far not been taken up. The most controversial and contentious ones are the federal model and management of the Maoist army. Although the parties and leaders claim to be committed to accomplishing the historic job entrusted them by the party through the Constituent Assembly election, they have reconciled themselves to the fact that the new constitution cannot be written in time.
The constitution cannot be written because the parties are not going to give up their respective stances on several issues. The Maoists, who have joined peaceful politics after a decade-long insurgency, are not going to abandon their agenda. The Constituent Assembly is, of course, the original idea and the agenda of the Maoists.
In the beginning, the other parties had opposed the Constituent Assembly but agreed on the Maoist agenda as they were compelled to forge an alliance with the ex-rebels to topple the king`s regime. The Maoists, thus, would not accept a constitution that did not match their agenda. In the same vein, the other parties would not accept a constitution that contains the Maoist agenda.
Similarly, the federal model is the main bone of contention. The Madhesi parties are demanding a one Madhes state, which is not acceptable to the other parties, whereas the Madhesi parties are not likely to accept anything short. This will be the main hurdle in writing the new constitution. All the parties know these problems and must make compromises on certain issues if the constitution is to be written. But making compromises means losing popular support, which the parties are unwilling to accept. Thus, their political future is safe if they can stop the constitution-writing process. There has been more or less consensus among the major political parties not to write the constitution.
This shows that the constitution will certainly not be written by the Constituent Assembly. As a result, the political uncertainty may linger on for some time to come. This situation may lead to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and ultimately compel the president to be active and take some action, which would be unfortunate for the country.
Democracy would be the first casualty, and it would set a bad precedent for Nepali politics in the future, too. In such an eventuality, the country may return to the old days of conflict. But a conscious and cautious approach with full consultation and cooperation among the major political parties can avert such a crisis. But the way the parties are moving and behaving do not make us optimistic.
It looks as though the parties have lost their decision-making capability. The parties have to look for external advice for anything and everything, which has invited external meddling in Nepal`s internal matters. Seeking solutions in foreign land is by no means a healthy trend. This has been felt more particularly after Girija Prasad Koirala`s demise. Until Koirala was alive, he had somehow managed to resist external meddling and pressures, and Nepal was capable of managing its own affairs to a large extent.
There had been enormous pressure from external forces not to align with the Maoists but to reconcile with the monarchy. However, Koirala resisted the external pressure, and he not only initiated the peace process but also directed the movement against the monarchy. It was under Koirala`s leadership that the peace process moved steadily ahead until the Constituent Assembly election. However, after the Constituent Assembly election, the process has got delayed. This is partly because the political leaders do not have a vision and are unable to take decisions in steering the country out of the crisis.
About the author: The author is executive editor of The Rising Nepal, Nepal`s oldest English daily, and contributor to The Weekly Mirror. His write-ups can also be read in www.yubanathspage.blogspot.com.