A day ahead of the scheduled Supreme Court hearing on the legitimacy of the proposed Chief Justice-led government, there are discordant voices emerging from the major parties. Speaking on separate occasions, Baburam Bhattarai and Jhalanath Khanal said a breakthrough was imminent in the next few days, while NC President Sushil Koirala expressed serious doubt on the feasibility of the CJ-led government. We believe these dissonant voices are the result of entrenched disagreements and continued lack of trust between the political forces. Also, the four major forces seem willing to push through a political settlement by circumventing the judiciary. The parties, we believe, should wait for SC verdict before finalizing the deal on the Chief Justice. If they settle the CJ’s nomination as the new PM before the final apex court verdict, it will send a troubling message that the highest court in the land can be sidestepped whenever it is politically convenient to do so. The political parties, which are the custodians of democracy, flouting the rule of law with such impunity is a troubling sign for the country.
More than this, the differing versions coming from political leaders indicate lack of seriousness to engage in meaningful negotiations. This lack of seriousness is galling at a time the country is desperately looking to its top leaders to take it out of the deep political and constitutional quagmire it finds itself in. In this uncertain climate, all sorts of conspiracy theories are being hatched. One of them is that if new polls cannot be held by June, UCPN (Maoist) and the ruling coalition are in a mood to give continuity to Bhattarai-led government. Since the agreement was for polls under CJ-led government by June, apparently all bets will be off in case there can be no June polls, as seems more and more likely. If the Supreme Court hearing which begins Thursday continues for a few days, and could even go for up to a week by some reckonings, it would further erode the possibility of polls in the next four months. Koirala’s statement on Tuesday that “the political parties have not fully reached consensus” on CJ-led government also suggests there is more going on than meets the eye.
These divergent messages are troubling. On the one hand, the eight-member taskforce formed to settle the contentious issues claims to have reached tentative agreements on all issues under its consideration, on the other, the rhetoric of top political leadership continues to highlight the deep divide between the political forces. These mixed messages which only sow confusion among the people and further erode the credibility of political forces must stop. The country needs timely CA polls and all political forces must tirelessly work towards them. We believe polls are still possible by late June if political parties are ready to work on a war footing to settle broader political questions and clear constitutional hurdles. If June polls are still unviable, there should be new CA polls no later than November. But for this to happen, the parties should engage in meaningful dialogue and show a level of seriousness which seems to be missing during ongoing negotiations.