Note: UWB received this article in which the writer states, “Let us Reconcile and Transform the Movement into a New Height.” We at UWB strongly think that the peoples’ movement should intensify to give more pressure to the king. We are publishing this article here because we are demanding for democracy that ensures views from all quarters of a society.
By Raj Chettri
Reading the address of His Majesty King to the nation on 21st April 2006 one can palpably notice three points – transfer of executive power to the people, readiness to abide by Article 35 of the Constitution and invitation to Seven-party Alliance (SPA) for premiership. Article 35 of the Constitution is the fabric of the whole thread of constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy. A true respect and enforcement of Article 35 can run democracy on to its full vigor.
But the SAP, civil society leaders and Maoist have dismissed the address of the King as a ploy. They have reiterated movement as the address is too little. The question that arises is what is enough?
Krishna Bahadur Mahara has clearly said to BBC that since the address of the King did not declare ‘constitutional assembly’ that is why it is too little. SPA has still not given its clear reasoning why the address is too little but their answer can be inferred. Perhaps, for them, first the King did not restore the parliament and second King did not announce constitutional assembly.
Reading responses to the question put on BBC “Will the King’s announcement bring peace to Nepal?” gives an impression that the Nepalese diaspora has stood stanchion for a couple of things – monarchy still deserves for Nepal and it must not be uprooted, democracy must be restored, petty-feudalism of leaders must be given no more vent and the governance modality of the country should be defined by popular and effective participation of the people i. e. framing a constitution by constitutional assembly.
Let us examine, does the address impede to embark on any of the above mentioned points of the SPA, civil society, Maoist and the Nepalese Diaspora?
For me it is clear that the address is not enough but not too little to make a head-way. It can be supported by a number of fundamental reasons. Now it is not a time for loggerheads and bickering but to take a courageous decision with profound wisdom. Each movement has its own historic role. The movement of Nepalese people is an explicit testimony of the love of Nepalese people to democracy. It was not heightened at the behest of the political leaders but it has come off due to profound belief of Nepalese people in liberal democracy.
Against this background the address of the King is not adequate although sufficiently opens a window for making a head-way. The head-way can be realized stepping wisely towards the following:
i. Give a Prime Minister: It is now a real test for the SPA that whether they can unanimously give a Prime Minister to the country or not. If they fail to give a unanimous Prime Minister they will be culprit in the eyes of history and before the court of Nepalese people. SPA must not disengage to any suspicion but needs to be bold and dispassionate to bear the responsibility. But the SPA has declined to do so. It is very unfortunate.
ii. Declare Constitutional Assembly: If the SAP had declared its candidate for Prime Minister the Prime Minster would have formed a government and the government could take a historical step recommending constitutional assembly under Article 35 of the Constitution, which the King cannot deny in the present day situation. It is because there is an immense Nepalese dedication and commitment for constitutional assembly and Nepalese people are not going to be satiated with any thing less than constitutional assembly. Equally visible, on the other hand, there is a huge international pressure that the King cannot ignore. King is bound to accept the recommendation of a legitimate government for constitutional assembly and declare constitutional assembly. Still the SAP can review its decision. More importantly, SAP should review its decision, move forward for a unanimously Prime Minister and form a government.
iii. Mainstream the Maoist: After declaration of the constitutional assembly the government should negotiate with Maoist to bring it to realize constitutional assembly. It undoubtedly brings the Maoist into the democratic mainstream. Although, there are many complex and tricky things including settlement of arms issues. But no political process undergoes through arm chair flair. There is no choice to the Maoist except partnering in the political mainstream of the country. This work can only be carried out by a legitimate government, which further justifies for the formation of a government by SAP.
iv. Develop Modality for the Constitutional Assembly: Following the agreement between Maoist and the legitimate government a modality of constitutional assembly should be wrought dispassionately. It should be led by academics and expert but not by political leaders. A social process needs to be consumed before deciding or embarking on to any hasty modality and process of constitutional assembly. Starting to believe in Nepalese genius and expertise can produce a credible and widely acceptable modality of constitutional assembly. But the political leaders must no more assume a position of an expert, which was one of the egregious faults committed by the leaders in the past.
v. Promulgate a new Constitution: The constitutional assembly will prepare a constitution followed by promulgation by the Head of the State, which unfurls immense possibilities for settling future political spectrum of the country towards a desirable direction. It is because people are the legitimate source of state power and any system of governance. Unless they decide their system of governance they cannot own constitution and any institution in the country. It is a fundamental process for entering into a political legitimacy.
One important question may arise, why the King right now cannot declare constitutional assembly? For any theoretical and practical reasons, right now the King cannot declare constitutional assembly. It is because of the following reasons:
i. We must not forget the political geometry in the country. No doubt the country is against the absolutism of the King but still the King is the least necessary evil for the country. It is the only institution that has bad and good history and can act as a fallback measure if country needs. A constitutional monarchy has still been liked by the Nepalese diaspora, civil society, political parties and Nepalese people. Let us practically think about the possible future political chaos and unrest in the absence of monarchy. It is just enough for its justification in any rational mind of the Nepalese people. It is easy to be overexcited and damn the monarchy but it is not wise to the country. In practical terms it invites a total war in the country. Many innocent people will be killed and nothing more will be achieved. As a practical person I don’t see any strength and justification for overthrowing the monarchy. The issue is not to dismantle the monarchical institution but to make it a deserving one, which is possible by exercising sovereign political engagement of the Nepalese people through constitutional assembly, for which the door has now been opened if the political leaders rightly walk onto the path.
ii. Theoretically no social engineering and contract is consummated unless agreed on fundamental values – grund norms. For any logical political solution in Nepal, constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy are the two fundamental values. Without agreeing on these fundamental values any political stability is hardly imaginable in the country. These grund norms should not be ignored merely succumbed to short sight, over excitement and ambition to overshoot. Therefore, these need to be agreed among the existing political forces in the country i. e. the King, Political Parties and the Maoist. This work can be carried out only by a legitimate government and without working for that the King cannot declare constitutional assembly merely being yielded.
iii. Of course, constitutional assembly is one of the best means of legitimacy for settling a form of governance in the country but it is still not well worked. It needs to be politically devised, constitutionally validated and legitimated through a rules based process. The core of democracy is a rule following i. e. following a legitimate process. Violation of a legitimate process has often resulted into a crumble of democracy. We have a bitter past that we must not forget. We should learn from our own past. In this context, without a legitimate government the process of constitutional assembly cannot be initiated. Otherwise, it pushes the country towards uncertain political horizon, unrest and anarchy.
A democrat must withstand with patience and endurance. It is a time for dispassionate decision. It is a high time for reconciliation among the King, SPA and Maoist, which is possible through undergoing the above proposed steps. Let us not doubt. Let us create an environment of confidence but be vigilant that the past mistakes did not repeat.
We must not forget the three broader past mistakes – ideological determinism of Maoist, petty-feudalism of the leaders (not of the political parties) and deep rooted belief of the King in absolutism. All these three attitudes need to be overcome for any conceivable political stability in the country. This can be done only through active and informed engagement of the Nepalese people in constitution making process. The King address has opened the door, let us actuate it.
Therefore, let us not overshoot, let us not be overexcited and let us not take a position of intransigency. Let us reconcile and chalk out things. Let us not engage in any systemic oversight. Let us move towards a path of a political marriage at least for the sake of future generation. This only brings the movement to its success.