WHAT- Nepal got a new Prime Minister today. President Ram Baran Yadav appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi as the Chairman of the Interim Electoral Council of Ministers (basically the Prime Minister) of Nepal. Dr. Yadav also administered the oath of office and secrecy to Regmi this morning. Regmi became the PM because Nepal’s top political parties, at war with each other and unwilling to accept leadership of the party other than their own, finally agreed on CJ Regmi’s name for the leader of the electoral government to hold elections of the Constituent Assembly. It is believed that Nepali leaders, generally considered corrupt and incompetent, did so at the behest of foreign forces especially our southern neighbor.
GOOD? BAD? Both.
First, why it is good:
1) Regmi replaced Dr. Baburam Bhattarai as the PM. This is good. I had big hopes from Bhattarai when he became pm 18 months ago. But he turned out to be a utter disappointment. Just another corrupt man who promoted nepotism and favoritism and, through his wife, misused resources of state in a naked manner. So Bhattarai’s exit is a relief. The Maoists were milking the state resource. I am not sure if that will be stopped entirely because the militant party in Nepal has the capability to extort and intimidate general public, business and government machinery even when they are not in power. Moreover, they have put in place many of their men and women in many plum and crucial positions in Nepali government machinery and administration that it will childish to say that their illegal flow of income from the state coffer will stop.
Now, why it’s bad?
1) If you believe in democracy, its principles, constitutionalism and fairness in politics, you will be very sad with the way Regmi’s name was proposed and appointed to lead the government. When he was appointed the prime minister, he was the serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Stunningly, he still is the CJ. He hasn’t resigned. Now, where has that basic principle of a constitutional democracy called separation of power gone? And look at what happend at the Supreme Court today? It was supposed to hear on the writ filed against the appointment of the CJ as PM. But the hearing was differed because CJ was appointed PM merely an hour before the hearing was scheduled to begin. The whole concept of independent judiciary has received a big blow.
Those who are support the CJ’s appointment as the PM argue that it was done to hold elections and provide an outlet to nearly 10-month long political deadlock. Okay, I get the point. But will an election which itself is an outcome of undemocratic exercise be able to provide solutions? It will be a step towards right direction if Regmi resigned from his post of the CJ.
Also, there really wasn’t any constitutional way to appoint a new pm because political parties who were to work in conensious were not willing to accept each other’s leadership. The only other option would have been to continue with BRB, whose legality was already in question, at the helm. Nepal’s current flawed interim constitution provides only ways for a prime ministerial appointment: one, the person has to win a majority of votes in the CA which is no more. Two, the person has to garner the support of major political parties, namely the NC, UML and UCPN Maoist (called national consensus).
I am all for elections. My hands are etching to caste a vote (two votes actually). Yes it will be very hard for me to choose the candidate (or a party) because all of the partie that are likely to contest in the elections have been tried and tested and they have all disappointed us. I just hope that some good candidates show up in the elections and some really good leaders emerge out of the democratic process.
Some say they doubt elections can happen under this government. Some say, there are high chances for elections to happen (in November, not in July though) because parties do want to rule and the only way for them to go back to power is to content elections and win the votes of the people.
Now the danger is that we can fully trust this government either. It is because these bureaucrats (two former secretaries were appointed ministers today and eight more will be included in the cabinet) are accountable to none today. And people can not punish (or award) them in elections either. They may turn out to be even more corrupt. Bigger danger is that they may get unduly influenced to sign anti-national treaties and other provisions.