Ritu Raj Subedi
DESPITE the reinstatement of the dissolved House of Representatives (HoR), national politics has not turned full circle. The coalition government comprising the political parties of divergent thoughts is yet to take a full shape but its major challenge is to draw up a common blueprint, guiding it to steer the nation up to the next elections. It must be able to make state institutions effective and functional in order to bolster federal republican system and thwart the threats posed by the anti-systemic forces. Promoting coalition culture should be foremost mission of the government formed in a special circumstance to save the constitution and parliament. It has no luxury to indulge in futile bickering over power sharing in face of continued non-cooperation from the main opposition.
The government must adhere to the verdicts of Supreme Court (SC) that created it. The apex court’s ruling has clear message – the federal parliament should be allowed to complete its full term so as to ensure the political stability and institutionalise the new system. This is because instability has become a root cause behind the frequent regime changes, underdevelopment, dependency and foreign meddling. The authors of the 2015 constitution had kept it in mind that the new charter should lay greater emphasis on maintaining stability in government and legislature. They had drawn this constitutional foresight from bitter past experiences of parliamentary practice.
Strict provisions incorporated in the constitution aim to foil the attempts of myopic politicians to dissolve the parliament time and again without letting it complete full tenure. They had dissolved the parliament on flimsy grounds to fulfil their parochial interest, plunging the country into the cycle of instability. Thus, the move to dissolve the parliament is tantamount to reneging on the constitution and people’s aspirations. Currently, there is a deadlock in the parliament as opposition CPN-UML is hell-bent to turn the House into irrelevance. The UML lawmakers have been obstructing the House proceedings, demanding that the Speaker expel its 14 lawmakers, including Madhav Kumar Nepal, who now leads CPN-Unified Socialist, for violating the party whip. However, the constitution does not allow raising this issue in the House as it is sub judice before the court.
The UML has boycotted the all-party meetings organised to sort out the House impasse. UML chair KP Sharma Oli had dissolved the HoR twice and wants to prove that the composition of current parliament is incapable to deal with the burning problems facing the nation. In order to justify his unconstitutional move, he has instructed his lawmakers to make it dysfunctional and paralyse the government’s performance. He is dead-set to clip the wing of ‘renegade’ leader Nepal at all cost because it was with his sheer audacity that the parliament was restored and coalition government formed. It is a big irony that the man who saved the constitution and parliament is now constantly facing a threat to his political life from the party that he founded.
In his recent interaction with editors of different media outlets, Oli said that he was ready to support the government if it braced for early elections. This is another wily proposal to falsify the SC verdict and make the parliament worthless. Ironically, a section of ruling Nepali Congress has allegedly risen to Oli’s bait. Some NC functionaries have relished the idea of early polls, arguing that the NC will benefit from the vertical split of the then ruling NCP and the UML if they go for early election. This line of thought goes against the grain of SC verdicts, and hurts value-based politics and people’s trust democratic polity.
If the coalition government goes for the early polls without fixing the national problems, its legitimacy will be at stake. The risk of COVID-19 has not yet subsided. Fatalities from the virus still hover around 10-15 a day. Going elections without controlling the deadly contagion will be disastrous. The pandemic has battered the economy, with millions of people losing their sources of income. Everyday hundreds of Nepalis in the west Nepal are going to India to make a living. This is unusual scene because they used to return home ahead of Dashain, biggest festival of Nepalis. In Nepal, the announcement of elections also causes high inflation, which has negative impacts on commoners hard hit by pandemic and economic hardships. The government’s first priority should be to revamp economy through relief and stimulus packages, and massive investments in infrastructure sector.
The coalition has humongous task of strengthening state, system, security and institutions rendered vulnerable by the previous administration. Instilling public trust in the constitutional bodies such as court, Election Commission (EC) and the parliament is essential. In his political document presented to the party’s ongoing statute convention, Oli had vented his ire against the SC, EC, and the Speaker, accusing them of assisting to split UML and granting legitimacy to the CPN-Unified Socialist. It ill behoves the former prime minister and opposition leader to point the finger at the constitutional wings for the political development arisen from the internal conflict of his own party.
Nepal’s federal republican system has not fully taken root. It has been challenged by various anti-systemic demos, including the monarchists, anti-secular and anti-federal forces, and ultra-leftist groups. The return of geopolitics may shrink the national space, posing difficulty to the government and political parties to take balanced stance on bilateral and multilateral issues. Elections may also induce predatory foreign forces to fund their clients so that they have a stake in our domestic politics. The government must assert its role and perform better to deliver goods and services to the citizen, thereby justifying the rationale behind its formation.
(Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal, Subedi writes regularly on politics, foreign affairs and other contemporary issues. firstname.lastname@example.org)
– The Rising Nepal