Beyond Monarchical Republic
To end the present environment of political uncertainty, caused by de-facto and de-jure rulers, and a monarchical republican system, the peace deal between the government and the CPN/Maoists should take place and constituent assembly process must start immediately, writes DWARIKA N. DHUNGEL.
Nepal’s politics has taken such a turn today that is difficult to distinguish what type of government we have in power in the country. What is going to happen next, now that the seven political parties’ alliance (SPA), with their leader G.P. Koirala as Prime Minister, enjoys the power of the dejure ruler, whereas the Maoists have emerged as the de-facto rulers, and monarchy is in a state of almost non-existence?
The restored House of Representatives has partially annulled the 1990 Constitution. The HoR has done that without amending the Constitution or replacing it through the promulgation of an Interim Government Act of Nepal 2006.
History will judge whether the HoR’s declaration was legal or not. But the fact remains that the country is now being ruled by an all powerful government on the basis of the two fundamental laws, a partially dead constitution of 1990 and the recently made (May 17) proclamation of the House of Representatives (HoR).
The result is that the country currently has a monarchical republican system of government with the ultimate power being exercised by the government headed by Prime Minister. We are also witnessing the open movement of CPN Maoists. Their Janasena (People's army) have come out in the open, with their guns. We see them in mass rallies, including the recently held (June 1 mass rally at Kathmandu), providing security to their leaders. Their indirect participation in running the administration of the country is also apparent. Furthermore, they have expressed their willingness to sit down with the government for a peace talk, and the latest talk concluded a week ago. If the present political course remains steady, there will soon be a new constitution drafted by a constituent assembly elected by the people.
Political actors have begun to assert their legitimacy, and more importantly, power, as massive structural changes in the Nepali society seem all the more promising. As mentioned above, the SPA and the Maoists are running the country in their own ways. The difference between the two is that one of them is back inside Singha Durbar—the seat of government in the country, and the other has come out of the jungles to openly assemble at Tundikhel, the open place, where rallies are held at the heart of Kathmandu. But the Maoists are still not the part of the government, formally.
Another difference is that the SPA, who led the 19 days movements with the support of the CPN Maoists against the rule of King Gyanendra, is represented in the restored in the HoR. But the CPN Maoists are still not the part of the HOR. Nonetheless, the government is not in a position to manage the affairs of the state without consulting the Maoists.
This was an unthinkable political equation only a few months ago.
Clearly, the country, at present, is in a state of transition and fluidity. The situation is so uncertain that anything can happen. Even a small mistake or a misstep of the government of the SPA alliance or the CPN Maoists can wreak havoc in the country. The turn of events could be much more serious (than in the past) in terms of the loss of lives and property.
Internal feuds are still a problem. Indeed, on the basis of behaviors within the SPA, especially with specific reference to distribution of positions, i.e. demand for ministerial positions by the alliance members of the SPA, the difference of opinion among them for the restoration of the local bodies and the opinion difference observed during the election to the Speaker of the HoR, one could say that some cracks have already cropped up in their relationships. In deed, the political parties have not learned from their past mistakes.
Some differences seem to have already cropped up in the relations between the SPA and the CPN Maoists, too. They have voiced differing opinions on the dissolution of the HoR, the convening of a national conference with the participation of the different stakeholders, the scrapping of the present partially dead constitution of 1990, the drafting of an interim government act of Nepal, and the formation of an interim government with the participation of the CPN Maoists. It would be interesting to see how much the SPA-led government would be able to resist the demand of the CPN Maoists, without whose massive support, the 19-day movement could not have been successful.
The public may give them some time so that they could work together to solve the ongoing conflict and establish sustainable peace in the country. The government and the political parties as well as the Maoists would succeed in these endeavors only when they realize that they need each other and that they are not going to get another chance if they miss the present opportunity.
The success of the 19-day April revolution (also called Rhododendron revolution, for the revolutionary red color of the national flower) and the May 17 proclamation of the HoR has led to the elimination of the feudal past. In fact, the movement is symbolic of the culmination of the all efforts made so far to get rid of the autocratic regimes (Rana autocracy and Shah Autocracy) and the feudal structure of the country. This is a historic opportunity for the political leadership. So, the SPA and CPN Maoists should find a common ground to work through their differences.
The recent signing of the code of conducts between the government and the Maoists, prescribing norms of behavior among them and towards the people, is one of the steps toward finding a common ground. For all practical purpose, people had the difficulty to move within and across districts due to the existence of two regimes. The government-controlled areas were limited to district headquarters. The CPN Maoists controlled mainly the rural and far-flung areas. The code of conduct would help to ease movement of the essential services, such foods, medicines, construction materials within districts and rural areas without obstructions.
There is a section of the society which feels that the government and the CPN Maoists should fist of all signed the ceasefire agreement and then only signed the code of conducts. However, their willingness to have such a provision in the document is a welcome sign.
What is now required is that they honor their commitments. But we will have to wait till the formation of the monitoring committee to find out whether the government has been successful in implementing the code of conducts, and whether the lives of the people living in the far flung areas has improved as well as the unhindered flow of essential goods ensured.
Another welcome step is the willingness shown by both the government and the Maoists to involve the United Nations in monitoring the peace process. Interestingly, to involve UN, as the Kathmandu Post newspaper reported recently (May 30, 2006) the government had to get the green signal of New Delhi along with the approval of the CPN Maoists.
The important challenge before the government is to successfully lead the country towards the formation of the constituent assembly for drafting a new constitution and to make this body inclusive. It has to be inclusive in terms of the representation of the different sections of the society and regions. In addition, there is a need to delineate its working procedure and the adoption process of the new constitution. These should be the subjects of national debate, along with the attention of the government to start a serious dialogue with CPN Maoists.
Drafting a good and lasting constitution requires forethought and foresight. It may be recalled that the 1990 constitution, based on the principles of multiparty parliamentary system of government with a constitutional monarch, was widely regarded as one of the world’s best democratic constitutions. But over the time, it became clear that it failed to reflect the socio-cultural mosaic of the country as well as its geographical regions of the country. Ultimately, even its framers and proponents began to think it was far from perfect. Needless to say, the 1990 constitution today is almost a dead document. The affairs of the country are partly managed only by some of its provisions.
Professionals have already begun discussions on the provisions needed for an inclusive constituent assembly, one that satisfies the demands of the different sections of the society and regions of the country. So far, the government has not started any discussion with professionals on these matters. Likewise, the SPA is yet to come up with a position paper on these subjects.
The future of the present monarchy has to be decided by the people during the election for the constituent assembly. The CPN Maoists remain adamant on a People's Republic. But for the time being, they insist they agree on a Democratic Republic. The question now is, how should, and how will the CPN Maoists respond should the people, via the constituent assembly elections, choose to retain monarchy? History is replete with examples that revolutionary elements have rarely embraced the outcome of such elections.
Similarly, the SPA, through parliamentary declaration, has already established a Monarchial republican system (or republican system with a powerless monarchy). So, in this context, the challenge before the current government, as it leads the country, hopefully, to the point of election to the constituent assembly with support from the Maoists, is to ensure to the people that they will have the opportunity to express their views on Monarchy without any fear and coercion.
Another major issue to be addressed is citizenship. This remains a thorny issue in the country, especially for many Terai Basis, people living in the Terai area (the inhabitants of the southern plains). Many of these people have a strong feeling that successive governments have ignored this major national issue: millions of people living in this area for ages do not have citizenship certificates. As a consequence, they are deprived of many benefits that come with citizenship, including the exercise of political rights. This issue has been raised times and again, with no results so far. Therefore, the representation of the Terai population in the proposed constituent assembly would be a critical issue. The government needs to address this issue before the election to the constituent assembly. The government’s approach to this issue and its resolution will have profound implications to the national politics.
An environment of fear and intimidation does not guarantee a free and fair election process. Such an election process pre-supposes the management of guns of the warring factions. We will have to wait and see how far and in what manner the UN blue helmets, if they are really called upon, would be able to manage the guns of warring factions and provide a sense of security and fearlessness during the whole election process to the constituent assembly.
Many citizens in the country, especially in the Karnali regions in the mid-western hills, the far western development regions as well as members of the indigenous groups, other disadvantaged sections of the society and dalits, are yet to feel that they are part of the Nepali nation. They still remain marginalised. Hence the issue of inclusiveness is one of the concerns raised by the leaders during the recent movement and CPN Maoists. Their participation in the total constitution making process can't be overlooked.
Nepal is at a crossroad as never before, since the beginning of its modern history in the mid-18th century. The country’s well-being, peace and progress depends upon how the major actors, especially the SPA the CPN Maoists will behave in the national political scene in the days to come. And if they fail this time, they will not be pardoned by the people.
To conclude, for the above to happen, and for the end of the present environment of political uncertainty, caused by de-facto and de-jure rulers and a monarchical republican system, the peace talk process between the CPN Maoists and the government should continue, and they must sign an accord. They should also work with different stakeholders in the process of constituent assembly elections, with no further loss of time. Only a smooth transition can guarantee a stable and sustained peace process in the country.
Dwarika N. Dhungel, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS), a Kathamndu-based think tank institute. Opinions and observations expressed in this article are his personal views. He can be reached at email@example.com
Posted by Editor on June 4, 2006 1:21 PM