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No man’s land

Publication Date : 28-06-2012

 

The dissolution of Nepal's Constituent Assembly (CA) was a situation that the Interim Constitution did not envisage. As a result, the constitution does not set clear guidelines for what should be the immediate road ahead. According to the Supreme Court decision disallowing the extension of the CA, elections for another body that would draft a constitution would be one way to move forward. Many are also arguing for reinstatement of the CA, though it is not yet clear according to which legal provisions this would be done. In any case, in this situation of great legal ambiguity, the only path forward is through consensus. It is unfortunate, therefore, that the political actors are busy posturing and finding legal loopholes in the interpretations by rival parties. A month in to the constitutional no man’s land, it does not seem to have struck them that the country is in the midst of a dangerous.

If anything, Prime Minister Bhattarai’s angry remarks against dissenting parties when he returned from Brazil early this week were unhelpful in cooling tempers among opposition leaders and fraying public nerve about fast-deteriorating inter-party ties. Not for the first time, our leaders (and a sitting PM) seem to forget what they say in public is closely followed by all Nepalis and not just the rival party leaders. Rather than taking a conciliatory approach, the PM has chosen a confrontational one.

By insisting that the only way out of the current impasse is election, and nothing else but election, and that the current government will remain in place until a new one is elected, it is not only the rival parties that he has antagonised. It has sowed seeds of deep trepidation among the general public that he intends to hang on to power, pursuing a single-agenda of a difficult election. This has made his own party’s chairman uncomfortable, who in recent days has been open about a change in government if that helps resolve the impasse. Because without a cross-party deal, elections are impossible, the ruling Maoists bear the greatest responsibility in getting other parties on board to either reinstate the CA or to hold elections.

This is not to say that the opposition parties have no responsibility. Their activities too have been unhelpful with a singular focused changing the government: the UML has gone so far as to choose KP Oli as its prime ministerial nominee.

Both Nepali Congress and Unified Marxists-Leninst have failed to mobilise public support for a constructive agenda—whether it is on reaching an agreement on the constitution before reinstating the CA, or on engagement between the PM and President, who seem to be on a collision course. What is required is a comprehensive deal that will be bought by both the ruling parties and the opposition. Simply focusing on a change in government is not enough.

If the current government no longer enjoys the legitimacy that it did, then on what grounds will the new government be more legitimate? Both the sides need to demonstrate a greater sense of responsibility and purpose to extricate the country from the current crisis. Both have messed up big time, and the more you engage in zero-sum game, the worse you are going to look in the public eye.

 

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