With President Ram Baran Yadav declaring that this government is a caretaker one, the field is now wide open, with political analysts and general public making many guesses and calculations of what would happen next. The President pointed out in a statement Tuesday evening that the Prime Minister is no longer a member of the Constituent Assembly, a constitutional requirement for a Prime Minister to continue in office. This announcement from the President has ended the claims made by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai that the executive power rests in the Council of Ministers as per the Interim Constitution and has all the rights to call for a fresh mandate for another Constituent Assembly (CA).
It is sad that the constitutional head of state had to intervene in government affairs, at a time when the country’s political parties had almost decided to adopt a mixed system of governance where the head of state and the head of the government would share executive powers. The recent developments, however, must have come as yet another lesson for the parties about why sharing powers between the two would not work. Surprising as it is, political parties have themselves dragged the constitutional head of state into taking the initiative in solving the riddle that many people are still confused about. The group of 16 political parties, including the major parties Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Broader Madhesi Front, asked the President to take necessary steps to form national consensus government, giving the President an opportunity to act.
We have maintained that the Prime Minister needs to step down to create conducive environment for a national consensus government that the country had been expecting since the formation of CA, but which never materialized. As the President has now termed this government a caretaker one, we should not start a fresh debate and ruin the possibilities of a consensus and jeopardize all that the country has achieved since the peace process began in 2006. Instead of going to Shital Niwas and asking the President to take steps, the parties should have focused on holding dialogue among themselves and looked for solutions to end the impending crisis. In fact, the parties should still take this approach. Major parties should give the benefit of doubt to the present government as this has already become a caretaker one, and start the dialogue.
The ball is now in the Prime Minister’s (the UCPN-Maoists’) court. Notwithstanding the differences between the parties during the last-minute negotiations to formulate a constitution which led to the dissolution of the CA, Prime Minister Bhattarai should offer an olive branch to the major parties to begin the talks. Bhattarai, along with Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, should rise above party politics and start afresh to provide a new lease of life to inter-party relations, as there is no option other than a national consensus government and holding election for the next CA, but with far less number of members and for a shorter period of time. Though some lawmakers have argued for resurrecting the dissolved CA, the focus should now be on rebuilding trust among political parties and ethnic communities that have proved to be forces to reckon with. This is not the time for a fresh debate that leads to uncertainties but to start a dialogue that would provide a basis for consensus.
Political parties should not forget that one of the most positive aspects of the peace process and constitution-drafting is the continuous dialogue between differing parties and that should remain the priority. The formation of a national consensus government with representatives from all sides, including the agitating groups, would give the last opportunity for the parties to overcome the constitutional difficulties and start preparing for November 22 elections. As the political situation and equations have changed since the April 2008 CA polls, a fresh mandate would not only provide opportunities to the parties to review their stands on the contentious issue of federalism, but also avail yet another opportunity to the sovereign people to find their right representatives