The proposal floated by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal during UCPN (Maoist) general convention in Hetuda to appoint the sitting Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi as prime minister to lead the election government is yet to materialize, amidst huge opposition from sections of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. Supporters of the proposal say there is no other way to get rid of Baburam Bhattarai government. But should that be the sole goal?
Chief Justice Regmi agreed to lead the election government after remaining silent for several days. Surprisingly, instead of Regmi announcing his agreement to lead the government, the Supreme Court released an official press statement about it. It remains a mystery whether the press release meant the Supreme Court justices endorsed Regmi or the CJ personally sought to give a judicial cover to an entirely personal and political matter. If the statement reflected the joint decision of the justices, it was rather imprudent, for a case challenging the potential appointment of the chief justice is sub-judice. If it was Regmi’s own decision, then he misused authority to give the impression that the court is in agreement with him.
The dire need for major political parties to agree on the proposal has bewildered common people in general and legal experts, political analysts, and intelligentsia in particular. What I fail to understand is this: Why did UCPN (Maoist) insist on a sitting chief justice? It is rumored that Regmi has been the Maoists’ darling boy since 2008, when they had proposed to make him chief justice. But why does UCPN (Maoist) disagree on Regmi’s appointment as the executive head after his resignation from this current post?
Getting rid of the current caretaker government is not the only problem that needs an urgent solution. The main problem of the country at the moment is to be able to hold election and get new mandate. Removing a government should not be a problem for a democracy if people don’t want it in place. Didn’t people’s power oust the nearly two and half century-old monarchy? As such there won’t be any difficulty in removing Bhattarai government as well.
Our political leaders must understand that in politics, decency pays more than Machiavellian tactics. And it is simply a mirage to believe that fair and free election is possible when the opposition parties are forced to agree on every single condition of the ruling Maoist-Madheshi coalition. Opposition leaders in turn must understand that they can win the hearts of the people by promoting fair politics and social justice that addresses the needs of the poor. Surrendering to every UCPN (Maoist) whim and fancy will destroy them as credible political forces.
Currently, the country suffers from a total political paralysis, as it finds itself besieged with insecurity and uncertainty. Abuse of power and pervasive corruption—Nepal is the third most corrupt country in South Asia according to Transparency International—has shattered the country’s image in the international community. The situation calls for a more inclusive, functional and responsive political system that empowers people and strengthens checks and balances at the national level. Choosing the incumbent chief justice to lead the election government simply goes against the fundamental principle of separation of powers. It is simply an idea pushed by certain vested interests.
The opposition parties have succumbed to this idea to pull down the Bhattarai government. It is like cutting off one’s own nose. On the face of it, their decision has further undermined people’s trust in rule of law, which was already very low. Our government has been dysfunctional and the people are increasingly frustrated with the lethargic developments of post-insurgency and post-Constitutional Assembly period. This zombie idea is likely to prolong the dysfunction.
The major parties have never been attentive to the miseries of the people who have to suffer myriads of problems. There is over 12 hours of daily power cut, which has forced people to live in the dark. There is no regular supply of drinking water, the most basic human need. Telephone lines and other forms of communication remain broken. Most of the expanded city roads are full of debris and dirt; in some places, these roads are being paved in a woefully substandard manner. The prime minister and ministers see this glaring example of corruption but take no action. The opposition parties keep mum.
Our political scene is full of mistrust and dishonesty. For a young democracy, the current level of mistrust between political parties is not good. We have discarded the Panchayat system and monarchy because they were corrupt, self-centered, tyrannical and bent on promoting nepotism and favoritism. But the post-monarchy governments have been worse.
There was a time when Nepal was respected in many parts of the world. Our voice was heard. Our people used to get a visa on arrival in many countries. We felt proud to be Nepalis on foreign soil. But today, we Nepalis are treated differently—as cheap laborers of the world. It is the result of the poor economy, degrading rights situation and high unemployment. Until our economic situation improves, the world will not respect us. Politicians have paid little heed to this imperative.
It is unrealistic to believe fair and free election is possible when opposition is forced to agree to every condition.of ruling coalition.
Today, Nepal badly needs a culture of dialogue to sort out our problems among ourselves. Political parties need to talk to each other in an amicable, peaceful and respectful manner and find solutions that are consistent with the rule of law. They should avoid boycotting each other, inviting foreigners to intervene in our internal affairs, and conspiracy-mongering. Why do you need a chief justice-led election government? Form a government under a technocrat. After allthe elections are conducted by technocrats all over the world. Recently, free and fair elections were held in Italy by a technocrat-led government.
Nepal is on the brink of being a failed state, especially after its failure to produce a constitution from the Constitution Assembly. The Maoists need to understand that democracy is not only about winning elections. It is about a culture of dialogue, understanding and compromise. It will do them good if they stop trying to impose their will on opposition parties and surprise them with democratic compromises. The opposition parties also need to understand that they will get nowhere if they continue to chase power, abandoning democratic norms and values.
Since 2008, we have lost our independence to handle internal affairs as well as our international reputation. But we haven’t lost everything yet. Now is the time for our political leaders to sort out outstanding political problems and concentrate on economic and social development. If they don’t do it now, it might be too late