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Publication Date : 14-03-2013
Now that Nepal's major political parties have finally struck an agreement on appointing the Chief Justice as the head of an election government, it is time for cautious optimism. Starting from the political deal, a significant number of tasks need to be completed to arrive at the elections on June 21. It is necessary to ensure that political decisions taken now do not jeopardise the political process in the future. It is also important to ensure that there is broad buy-in from smaller parties that were largely been excluded from negotiations. A number of smaller parties are likely to continue to voice their opposition to a CJ-led government. The larger parties did hold consultations with them on Tuesday, but it will be necessary to carefully take into account any objections that they may have or to convince them that the plan of the Big Four is the best possible option.
President Ram Baran Yadav seems to have realised that a degree of caution is necessary. It is important to recognise, however, that the process of holding elections is as important as the event of holding elections. A bad process will lead to bad elections with compromised legitimacy. An election that will not have the support of a substantial number of political forces and the public will invite fresh questions of legitimacy, though the parties have repeatedly squandered the precious time at hand and giving them more time hasn’t necessarily delivered a better result for the people.
There is one aspect of the four-party agreement that is particularly troubling. The decision of the four parties to modify the ordinance on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is an improvement as the four parties have reportedly agreed to prosecute those guilty of wartime crimes. The earlier ordinance envisaged complete amnesty for the guilty. The problem, however, is that the revised ordinance now would allow the Commission to decide who will be prosecuted and who will be pardoned. There is every indication that the parties will try to control the Commission once it comes into existence and prevent as many prosecutions as possible. The TRC, therefore, should not have sweeping discretionary power to decide on who to prosecute. Unsurprisingly, human rights activists have already made their opposition to this provision known. It is likely that the international community will further criticise this provision. It is necessary to take into account the views of the wider civil society, including the victims’ families, on the TRC and not just let the parties have a monopoly over the process of setting up a TRC.