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Mind the gap

Publication Date : 25-06-2012


With the dissolution of Nepal's Constituent Assembly (CA), no institutional method exists for changing the government. This fact has led leaders in the pposition parties to claim that the CA dissolution was deliberate on the part of the Maoists and that Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai wants to cling to his position for the indefinite future. The Election Commission (EC) too is watchful of any attempts by the government to exceed its authority. Elections having been declared, the EC is concerned that the government will spend funds or tamper with the bureaucracy in order to influence elections in the favour of the party that is leading government. It was for this reason that it flagged the government on transfer of a number of senior police officials, a decision which the government has subsequently revoked.

Fears that the government will try to use the state machinery to its benefit are genuine. And it is true that the election government no longer enjoys the full legitimacy it did when the legislature was still in existence. In this context, it is laudable that the government has decided to revoke its decision to transfer police officials. The government will need to continue to take measures to allay the fears of the opposition parties to show that it is careful to safeguard political gains made since 2006.

In the coming weeks and months, however, there will be many decisions that the government (whether by Baburam Bhattarai or a natinoal unity government) will have to take. Some of them may be intended to benefit the ruling parties, some may have to do with regular administration and some may have to be taken with a view towards addressing some needs of the population. Often, it will not be easy to distinguish between the mandate of an election government and a regular one.

Towards that end, the Election Commission and the courts should exercise caution when adjudicating on these matters. They should not act in a way that totally inhibits the government from functioning.

It is indeed worrisome that none of the parties seem to be much concerned about the paralysis that has gradually seized hold of the state since the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. Given the fact that it will be at least a year before the  elections are held and a new legislature elected, stopgap measures, however unappealing, will have to be taken. For certain purposes at least, the ever-bickering political parties would do well to reach some tentative agreements on broader matters regarding the state.

Most immediately, it is necessary for all of them to reach agreement on the budget. The government has so far taken an unhelpful approach on the budget, insisting that they are entitled to bring out a full-fledged budget, instead of an "advance budget", a normal practice when the government is a "caretaker" one. All said and done, the political actors, including the opposition parties, should realise that there is no ready-made political roadmap in this consitutional vaccum, and the burden of constructing one lies on the shoulder of both the governing and opposition parties.


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