By Prabasi Nepali
With the completion of the parliamentary elections in our country and the emergence of a stable majority for the so-called ‘Grand Left Alliance’, Nepal can look forward to a period of stability and sustained development, other things remaining equal. This all depends, of course, on the maturity of the leaders. In order to achieve prosperity for the common people, the new government must scrupulously reject the ‘micro-management’ of our southern neighbour, and equally avoid playing the ‘China Card’ to irate it unnecessarily. Both government and the loyal opposition must work in a cooperative fashion towards this end.
The incumbent prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba may have miscalculated on many fronts before the elections, but he did make a gracious beginning for the incoming government. Meeting the former PM and current chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (CPN-MC), Pushpa Kamal Dahal at his official residence in Baluwatar, Deuba congratulated him on the success achieved by the ‘Left Alliance’ and categorically stated that ‘he was eager to hand over power as soon as possible.’ He also stressed the necessity to immediately endorse the bill relating to the National Assembly (NA/ the Upper House of parliament). This was a very normal procedure.
Buoyed up by the election results, the former guerilla leader of the decade-long Maoist insurgency (by no stretch of the imagination could it be termed a civil war) was in a defiant mood and urged Deuba to make political and constitutional appointments only on the basis of an agreement among the three major political parties. He also stated the obvious by saying that the parliamentary elections have given the left alliance ‘a new mandate’ and warned the PM against political appointments, including that of State governors. Comrade Dahal seems to think that even before the left alliance takes office, he now has the right to dictate terms, i.e. to govern side by side with the incumbent government.
Mr. Dahal should realize that he is an ordinary politician, no longer having the aura of the ‘Ferocious One’ (‘Prachanda’). He should stop basking in the glow of his nom de guerre and request all and sundry, including the media, to stop using this epithet in conjunction with his name. He has long become a mere ‘paper tiger’ and only the eleventh-hour alliance with the CPN-United Marxists-Leninists (UML) saved his party from becoming an ‘also ran’. Analyzing both the types of parliamentary elections – ‘First Past the Post’ (FPTP/Winner Takes All) and
the ‘Proportional Representation’ (PR/ ‘Threshhold’ stipulation), it is clear that the Maoists in total are only in third place and not second as generally expected and this only because they rode piggy-back with the UML. Deuba’s party, the Nepali Congress (NC) did not do that badly after all coming a respectable second. However, it was a definite loss which was can have consequences for both the party in general and the leadership in particular.
The UML is, of course, in the seventh (Communist) heaven. Its brilliant political strategist, Bam Dev Gautam, a former deputy prime minister, together with his counterpart in the Maoist party, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, confabulated in the utmost secret and brought forth two agreements which shattered the political atmosphere in the country. One was to form a grand alliance between the two nominally Communist parties to jointly fight the general elections. The second was to form a united Communist party. The first coming just months ahead of the elections was indeed an astute move and caught the other political parties completely unawares. Especially the Nepali Congress, currently the main political party in the governing coalition was in a major quandary. It could not cobble together an effective coalition of parties to oppose the ‘Left Alliance’ which strolled to victory.
The chairman of the CPN-UML and former PM, K.P. Sharma Oli is very much in a hurry to assume the reigns of government. He has urged PM Deuba to pave the way for the formation of the new government, as if he had any choice in the matter. He reminded the lame-duck PM that he should respect the recent public verdict and quit the government without any dilly-dallying! On another note he added that the election commission should take the initiative to ease the way to form a new government — and this even before the final PR votes had been counted. Besides, it is not incumbent on the Election Commission to facilitate the formation of the new government. Comrade Oli should have known by now that since the final election results are finally officially announced, Deuba will definitely tender his resignation (and that of the entire cabinet) to the federal president Bidhya Bhandari, upon which she will call upon Oli to constitute the new government.
Comrade Oli (as also his comrade-in-arms Dahal) also had an issue with the incumbent government forwarding the ordinance regarding the formation of the National Assembly (Upper House of Parliament) to the Federal President. He was contradicted forthright by NC-leader Prakash Man Singh, the newly-elected MP from Kathmandu-1, who urged the Left Alliance not to make unnecessary comments on the matter as the government was proceeding as per the provision in the Constitution of Nepal. The Left Alliance should be proceeding in a spirit of cooperation with the current government (and future opposition) and not install unnecessary hurdles for the peaceful transition of power. After all, it will
itself depend on the opposition in many areas for getting things done and cannot proceed rough shod.
The NC and Madhes-based parties want the Upper House election to be held on the basis of ‘Single Transferable Vote’ (STV) system. The STV provides approximately proportional representation which enables votes to be cast for individual candidates rather than parties and – compared to first-past-the-post voting – reduces “wasted” votes (votes on sure losers or sure winners) by transferring them to other candidates. This would be a more just system for the upper house as there are many constituencies. The Left Alliance is insisting on the ‘majority’ system because they already have a majority at the centre, the constituent states and the local bodies. They also claim that there is ‘no need to take a tough stance on the constitution’ and that the National Assembly could very well be formed after the new government was formed.
However, this is putting the cart before the horse. Parliament consists of two houses and the constitutional process of both houses being constituted and functioning before the installation of the new government is appropriate and necessary. After all, there is such a thing as ‘the rule of law’ which cannot be bent to suit the Communists. Also, parliament is supreme, reflecting the sovereignty of the people. In a functioning democracy, for this very reason, the legislature has the supremacy over the executive and judiciary. It can dismiss the elected government at any moment and even curtail the war-making powers of a powerful executive, as in the United States. Thus, for parliament to function properly, it must be complete and whole, i.e. also with the National Assembly. Thus, the Left Alliance should cooperate with the government (as suggested by the Federal President) and bring this about, so that they can enjoy the fruits of power as soon as possible. As Edmund Burke said succinctly: “Our patience will achieve more than our force.”
Nepal’s Parliamentary Elections 2017 & Ramifications
By Prabasi Nepali