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onstitutional Test On

By P. Kharel
pkharel1What content the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nepal! It is in the throes of experiment even a decade after the sweeping political changes and two Constituent Assemblies, which is an undistinguished world record.
Witnessed with increasing intensity and regularity, the series of hiccups in implementing the basic document of the land does not portend well for the long-term interests of the nation, including political stability and economic prosperity.
Soon after the spring 2006 events, the ambitious late Laxman Aryal declared that one could formulate the nation’s new constitution in 15 days, given the will. His law background was thought to be an authority in itself on matters concerning a national constitution. This was an error in perception and judgment. It also reflected the casual manner in which some individuals in black coats, styling themselves as automatically constitutional experts, saw the formulating process of a constitution.
LACK OF COMMITMENT: As things stand, lessons are learnt little and late, if at all, in Nepal, where experts are declared without substantive rhyme or reason. The labour pains in implementing the 2015 Constitution are an outcome of having given almost no time for the mandatory public debate on its contents across the length and breadth of the country.
Little wonder then that the change of guards at Singha Durbar has been given to ugly foot-dragging, with the outgoing and incoming rulers trading politically insulting accusations. Ethics never really being any strong point of parties in power, this time the dubious record has crossed all limits. The Sher Bahadur Deuba-led coalition, with the status of a defeated team and hence holding on to power merely as a lame-duck, with the Left Alliance about set to be sworn into office, distributed huge amounts of money to its favourites and cronies.
Pettiness was on full display when the outgoing government made appointments that were not called for. Such practices are avoided in other countries whose democracy the coalition partners love to cite. In fact, the change of guards after elections or successful no-confidence vote is quick in keeping with democratic norms and political grace in successful democracies. In cases where some delay is unavoidable, the incumbent government maintains close contact and consultation with the new leader in the making or the party chief.
It took eight years and two Constituent Assemblies to prepare the new Constitution. Now the challenge for the political parties is to implement its provisions. Early indications show the task is extremely difficult for its supreme patrons. The government failed to declare provincial capitals and resorted to shameful ad-hocism, posting the naming of the provincial centres of administration. Regular rallies of intimidation and threats to warn the government against casual declaration of the local capitals underscored the gravity of the situation. Delegations have flocked to Kathmandu and delivered their letters of warning to Deuba at his official residence in Baluwatar.
While deferring the task of deciding on provincial capitals, the Deuba team of record-size ministers has left no stone unturned to distribute huge millions of rupees to individuals serving their narrow considerations. After the recent general elections, it approved billions of rupees to development activity referred to by former members of parliament, most of who will not be seen in the newly elected House.
In the last one year, the government is reported to have doled out Rs 840 million to hangars-on and party workers. A month after it was clear they had decisively lost general elections, the “loktantrik” government headed by Deuba gave the go-ahead for Rs 10 billion to be given to projects of ex-MPs, most of whom did not even the recent elections. Fortunately, the Supreme Court put a stop to it.
DIM DAWN: As had been the case in previous occasions since 2006, opportunities for party leaders to name nominees to the highest legislature of the land has been outlandishly misused. Proving that habits die hard, parliamentary seats through proportional representation have become an instrument for a few leaders to shower favours on family members, reatives and hangars-on. Finding an answer to who such nominees will be loyal to, does not need taxing one’s mind much.
If past experience is any guide, public expectations from such individuals’ presence in parliament and contributions to the initiatives and debates pertaining to pressing issues most relavant to the larger interests of Nepali society might not be much. If some of these members manage to assert their roles actively and appropriately, they will make people sit up and applaud. But then this is something that did not happen previously, hence the high degree of skepticism.
Meanwhile, the Left Alliance leaders and the defeated Deuba-led coalition continue trading accusations that the other is acting against democratic “norms”. The supposedly know-all “lawyers” and “constitutional experts” have failed to come up with any speedy solution to the related issue, divided as they mostly are on partisan lines even outside the court of law. These include those who were actively involved in drafting the 2015 Constitution. The former Economics faculty at Tribhuvan University and, now, the Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav has had the last laugh as the interpreter of law!

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