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And, Now Executive Presidency!

By P. Kharel

pkharel1Once again, the issue of executive president has been tossed up by the very man who had kept it in the back burner while he became prime minister twice. Maoist Centre’s supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal reintroduced the subject shortly after he had to quit the prime ministerial chair he had occupied under a hastily concluded agreement made with the Nepal Congress chief Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Even a half blind can see the acute indigestion and pain the Maoist leader suffers in being compelled to lose his seat of power in exchange for inducting his party colleagues in the Deuba-led Council of Ministers. Dahal’s renewed call for amending the Constitution echoes his addiction to power. He privately cribs that he could not stay in office for more than a year on both the occasions he was tossed onto that seat.

TELLING TOLL: Dahal’s sense of premature exit from the high office without being able to hold on for even two years and do something substantive is a raw wound he just cannot wish away. History will treat his two terms as nothing more than insignificant footnotes.

Dahal frittered away his opportunity to govern the country for perhaps a more satisfying period. The first time he was sworn into after the first Constituent elections. Rank immaturity and ignorance triggered an unprecedented dispute over the issue of the incumbent army chief. The quick and unexpected chain of events found him out of office in no time and reeling under festering frustration of lost opportunity.

Dahal, as do some his erstwhile party colleagues, read that the parliamentary form of governance will not give the free hand needed by the head of government to take innovative initiatives for creating an impressive impact on the people. He realises that the proportionate segment of elections and their impact on parliamentary seats will never give him any realistic hope of a homogeneous government all his own.

He cannot say so in as many words because his party claims the patent right to the idea. Expressing regret over the “mixed system” of election demands of him to maintain a calm exterior while seething with frustration over what thinks is the incorporation of his “agendas” in the Constitution but getting nowhere to being at the helm of the state affairs unhindered and for a decent duration.

If anyone thinks that the installation of the office of executive president will be a launching pad for Nepal’s modern development pace, it would be the height of absurdity, even if it were refloated by Pushpa Kamal Dahal. People do not fail to note that Dahal was the one who led his armed group to a decade long “people’s war” that claimed more than 16,000 lives and wounding many more whereas the country experienced a severe setback by several decades in terms of opportunities lost and infrastructure destroyed.

Political practices in Nepal have undergone through such stages that the country’s top post remains a constant slippery pole. Those advocating an executive president have an eye on far less “restricted” power than now allowed in the Constitution. They lack the will to orienting themselves to the demands of principled coalition partnership or the prospects of sitting on the opposition benches. In fact, they every now and then admit in public that the sole objective of a political party is to be in power.

MOCKERY ON DISPLAY: In the past decade, all prime ministers, irrespective of their party banner and ideology, have exhibited a craving for blatant misuse of power. The lifestyle they and their cronies have developed overnight is mockery of accountability and transparency. Politicians bluntly admit that “everything is fair in love and politics” and that “politics is the game of the possible”.

Political parties are keen to grab power by any means, an established fact time and again stressed by the actions of the parties themselves in the last quarter of a century. They really have no qualms about it.

If our politicians had any sense, talked sense and their work matched  some sense, we wouldn’t be in reduced to such dire straits as we have find ourselves for more than a quarter of a century. Concentrating power and hoping for continued and unhindered state of impunity for those in power is the motive behind the height of absurdity in calling for introducing executive president’s post.

By now, it is absolutely clear that the existing crop of leaders is as rotten to the roots. Leaders have had multiple opportunities and occasions to drive the country’s course for a society distinctly different and better than at any time since the ushering of democracy nearly 70 years ago. Greed for power and shameless opportunistic and corrupt practices has unmasked their intentions.

If the executive president were to be introduced, authoritarian practices would rise and, in the resultant political fracas, the nation’s sovereignty would be placed at great risk. There would be a complete vacuum of a credible, constitutional guardianship that was invested with permanent respect from the cross-sections of Nepali society.

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