By The Conflict Study Center
[More credit at the end]
The unexpected results of historic Constituent Assembly (CA) elections have invigorated the CPN (Maoist), now the largest political party, on the one hand, and have enervated the former power holders, the NC in particular. Moreover, the results gave a mandate for transformation of the government from conformist-cum-centrist bourgeois democracy to socio-cultural democracy. Nepal has set a noble example of inclusion in terms of ethnicity, clan, gender, cultural and regional identities but excluding class. A full one-third (33%) of seats, between the first-past-the-post (FPTP) and the party’s close list proportional representation (PR), are held by women. Similarly, 34 percent belongs to Madhesi representatives, 33 percent to Janajatis, 8 to Dalits and34 percent to others out of 575 representatives. The ongoing discussion of the major political parties shall nominate 26 representatives from various walks of life – civil society, ethnicity, regional and cultural groups. Although the former insurgent CPN (Maoist) emerged as the largest party in the CA elections, it will be faced by a number of challenges:
A. Political Issues:
Even after the one-and-a-half month race and the CA result, the NC cannot accept their defeat from the people, even though they got just 19 percent against the Maoists 38 percent of representatives. Due to extreme pressure both in domestic and international arenas not to leave the caretaker government, a couple of days ago Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala publicly stated that he needs two more years to draft the new constitution of Nepal. The NC time and again publicly claimed that they will not give their resignation unless the Maoists accept their agenda in the CA. The agenda is:
• Disband the parallel state-mechanisms of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), People’s Court and Young Communist League (YCL) – paramilitary force;
• Set a fixed date for integration of the combatants and displaced people;
• Immediately return the seized property of displaced people;
• Amend the constitution to implement the republic;
• Amend the constitution to form and oust government with a simple majority instead of the current two thirds provision;
• Immediate end to threats, looting, beating, kidnapping, killing, extortion of donation and arson;
• Separate the independent judiciary, constitutional authorities, government media, executive, police and army from the political arena.
[Manifestos of Nepali political parties: Comparative Table]
Among these demands, the issue of amending the two-thirds constitutional provision to be a simple majority is at the top. Additionally, the NC put forward the constitutional provision for a president and vice-president with ceremonial power (Head of State) and PM with executive power (Head of Government). On May 21, leaders of the second, third and fourth largest parties (NC, UML and MJF ) through the CA elections agreed to amend the constitution, replacing the two-third majority to make and change the government with a simple majority without consulting the Maoist party. Responding to their call, Prachanda first disagreed, but later decided to the amendment accordingly, but India instantly accepted this decision. Although, the Maoists including Prachanda have still had a strong conviction that such shall initiate a game of forming and removing the government, and thus the dream of the people to draft/promulgate a new constitution will never materialize. Why is the NC in particular so adamant about amending the constitutional provision? The process is obvious.
First, if the government is formed under Maoist leadership, they may have control over both the state mechanism, including security forces, and their own parallel local forces, e.i. the “People’s Courts.”
On the other side of the coin, the illegitimate work of the YCL and recent murder of a businessman by the PLA have also made fertile ground for suspicion of the Maoist party. The NC wishes to defame the Maoists in national and international arenas using such human rights violations. Stable leadership would disrupt this tactic. Second, senior Nepal Army officials who used the king’s ladder to reach the top position in the past, but now are close allies with the NC, must fear action, as they were sharper critics of the Maoist leadership than even severely critical political leaders in the past; either on political or integration issues. Such officials are continuously pressuring the PM not to resign from the position.
Third, the NC, with its pro-monarchial forces (hardliners), bourgeois democratic capitalism force, wants to amend the two-thirds constitutional provision to a simple majority so that it can begin a foul game (buying and selling CA members similar to the parliamentary elections of 1999) in order to draw power away from the Maoist-led government.
Fourth, a few diplomats whose prime policies, programs and strategies were to ‘watch India’ and ‘encircle China’, suppress communist ideology and empower elites (conformists and centrists) in Nepal are also pushing the PM Girija not to leave the government until the constitution has been changed as they desire. Indeed, the demand of amendment to the constitution has been brought by them rather then Nepali Congress itself.
Lastly, the political leaders, courtiers, leaders of the security forces, bureaucracy, judiciary, civil society stalwart, and Big House Media (BHM), who amassed an hefty sum of property by illegal means such as commission, corruption, bribery and so forth in the past, are trying their best not to let the Maoists lead the government for fear of stern action.
As UNMIN receives wide criticism from all corners, it may return mid-way through its work. Technical support to the Election Commission for free and fair CA elections and verification of combatants at cantonments and satellite cantonments has been completed. However, the greatest task, professionalization of the combatants and democratization of the Nepal Army as well as integration of both have been major challenges, as neither the Interim Government, nor UNMIN have endeavored to work on the most challenging tasks. There would have been many chances to extend UNMIN’s tenure (after July 23, 2008), but its high profile/vocal and visible seeking of more job opportunities rather than focusing on work made Nepalis frustrated at all levels. Who now replaces the position of UNMIN? There is no visible answer yet. The Indian government is trying hard to win the favor of the political parties to have an influential role in managing the arms and armies of Nepal. That may be the reason why newly appointed Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood, who is recognized as an expert of arms and armies, visited 6 times to Prachanda (during less than a month of work, even formal works he started in Nepal) to placate the Maoists on the one hand, and to preclude extension of UNMIN’s tenure on the other. During a recent visit Sitaram Yochuri, special envoy to Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, advised the Maoists not to have any more role for UNMIN after its tenure ends. It appears India is seeking a stronger role in security matters beside to the political and economic arenas. Nepalis are yet to have answered whether India feels it has a stake in resolving the crisis for sustainable peace, security and sovereignty, or because of zest for influence in security measures.
C. Implementation to Republic Nepal
The Interim Constitution (IC), part 23 on the transitional provisions article 159 (1) states, “No power regarding the governance of the country shall be vested in the king.” Similarly, article 159 (3) states that notwithstanding anything contained elsewhere in this Constitution, the simple majority in the first meeting of the Constitutional Assembly shall ratify the decision of republic against the monarchy. The same article also states that the PM shall perform all work pertaining to the governance and operation of the country (Head of the State and the Government). The Maoists have already asked the king to cooperate in creating a comfortable political outlet by leaving the palace before the first meeting of CA on May 28, 2008.
If the king does not hear them even after the proclamation of republic in Nepal, he may face serious consequences, as he has accumulated a huge sum of money by illegal means. Misusing the state apparatus, the king started to amass private property after the imposition of the Panchayat system (absolute rule) introduced by his father Mahendra in 1960. The monarchy had been existing as a pauper king prior to 1960 as a result of the Rana oligarchy. The NC wishes to amend the constitution to incorporate the provision of ceremonial president, vice president and PM in the name of power sharing, but the Maoists outright rejected the statute amendment. If this trend continues, the disadvantaged political party(ies) may eventually align with the king. If that happens, Nepal would see more chaos and bloodshed, as the people are against any ally of the dead monarchy and its courtiers.
D. International cooperation
Nepal has been a playground of powerful nations due to the mushrooming of communist ideologies on the one hand and a growing alliance between China and India on the other. These nations are now in confusion as their conformist counterforce failed to defeat communist ideology in Nepal despite their moral, economic and propagandistic support. On the question of legitimacy and victory of the Maoists in the CA polls asked by Ramesh on “Ask the Ambassador,” US Ambassador to Nepal Nancy J. Powell said, “The final results of the elections came out last week, showing that the CPN-Maoist party won the most seats… The election appears to have been a credible one, despite reports of widespread intimidation and violence prior to the elections and problems on Election Day in some polling places.
Although there were violations of the Code of Conduct by supporters from all major parties, the bulk of them appear to have been committed by Maoists.” She expressed the U.S. was continuing the program of assistance to Nepal. Nevertheless, the USA has not removed the terrorist watch tag to the Maoist party yet. Replying to Timila’s question about the election result and terrorist tag, she said, “Almost everyone in Nepal was surprised by the election outcome… it looks like the CPN-Maoists will emerge as the largest party, but without a majority. We, here in the Embassy, will be working with our U.S. Government colleagues in Washington to determine if the current designation of the CPN-(Maoist) as a terrorist body on the Terrorist Exclusion list and Specially Designated Nationals list should be continued. That decision is likely to take some time to complete.”
In general, Nepalese people have a concept that the US has never tried to understand the interest of Nepalis and ground reality of Nepal. People may have continuing suspicions if the US does not remove the terrorist watch tag even if they lead the government, being the largest party and reflecting the recent voters wish.
British Ambassador to Nepal Dr. Andrew Hall clearly spoke in favor of formation of new government and promulgation of a new constitution. The United Kingdom is positive toward providing more grants to the new government regardless of who leads the government. The World Bank has already provided more than NRs. 12 billions supports. Many international communities who want sustainable peace and security through social justice in Nepal have a common vision or understanding that a elections were a milestone to bring a remarkable change in the country and that is up to Nepalis to decide who should stake claim to form new government in the changed context.
India is quite happy to see the new government formed at the earliest. Indian PM Singh said, “We feel that all political parties which took part in the elections have an obligation to make a success of this democratic experiment. I have not given up hope. And our good wishes are for the ushering of democracy in Nepal.” India has an expectation that Nepal’s political process is to be resolved harmoniously with coexistence of all and the process to form a new government is to proceed efficiently as anticipated.
However, many conscious masses have a conviction that India always plays a double-standard political game with Nepal. They believe that Indian Ambassador Sood is advocating that the Maoists lead the new national government on the one hand and on the other pushing that have a parallel power sharing mechanism in the new government – ceremonial role to interim president and Prime Minister with executive power amending to the IC. Even though, Nepal’s Finance Minister Dr. Ram Saran Mahat objected to the Sood. It is because of that India always supports to the NC primarily and UML secondarily. As Indian Ambassador spoke in favor of people for the first-time, NC could not tolerate it.
Similarly, India wishes to put the Nepal Army under the president. Freelance intellectual Dev Mukherjee stated in New Delhi immediately after the CA results there has been a penetration of US spys in the Nepal Army and this group does not wish to have a Maoist-lead new government in Nepal despite the people’s mandate. A few diplomats want to have a ceremonial presidential role for the NC’s Girija Prasad Koirala, PM to the Maoists’ Prachanda and Chairperson of CA to the UML. And the nation is heading towards the lines. Even Shyam Saran, former Indian foreign secretary and ex-ambassador to Nepal stated “alas!” three-times in a paragraph of his lecture in the recent past two-day seminar in Patna, India in its first diplomatic initiatives between Indian and Nepal on April 27. On the other hand, Dr. Shashanka Koirlala (elected CA member) – son of BP Koirala, the founder of the NC said that the new constitution of Nepal is being drafted in New Delhi where Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai also associates. Similarly, another NC leader Pradeep Giri in New Delhi objected to Saran’s saying, ‘India may stop Gorkha recruitment if Nepal desire so’ and his proposal of ‘One Madhes; One Autonomous Pradesh.’ Yochuri asked the Maoists to put forward the issue of the 1950 peace and friendship treaty after the promulgation of the new constitution.
E. Government Apparatus
Whatever effect the policies, programs and strategies of the Maoist lead national government may have on the course to make a new Nepal, the prime movers are the bureaucrats, diplomats and technocrats. Notwithstanding that all prime movers including security forces and the judiciary are intermeshed with the other parties; the NC in particular. This has happened due to over politicization of the bureaucracy and others rather than free, fair and impartial services to the people and nation. Even in the past, the same state apparatus manipulated the new and fresh leaders of NC and UML, providing souvenirs at first, managing vehicles, rented homes second, buying land and houses third, and then finally sinking them into the quagmire of corruption. Because of that, the people in this CA handed defeat to most of the infamous leaders. There is no doubt that the same mechanism has already activated immediately after the results of CA to intervene with the influential leaders of the Maoist party too.
If the present leadership of Nepal tries to amend the IC, it will be similar to poking at a wasp hive. The understandings and agreements, whatever may have been done by the government in the past with Ethnicities, Madhesis, Dalits and other autonomous seeking groups suddenly shall come to the surface and Nepal will fall into the political marsh, because all groups will try to incorporate their issues in the IC. Such demands themselves, not to mention their fulfillment, minimize the importance of the CA drafting and promulgating the new constitution. Therefore, the principal state actor must take special care not to have extra-judicial killings, terror, violence, anarchism and extortion any more in the country on the eve of new constitution making process. However, the national government should create a political consensus incorporating all major parties including the MJF, TMLP and others in the forthcoming national government.
Contributed by: Bishnu Pathak PhD and edited by: Neil Horning
Assisted by: Chitra Niraula, Rushma Shakya, Rita Chaudhary, Man Pd. Neupane ‘Manish’, Ganga Puri and Meena Siwakoti