Tuesday, 27th June 2017

On Consensus Politics


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Dr-Gyan-Basnet-Shailendra-K-ShresthaIt is now over two months since the expensive second grand CA election that was supposed to settle the fate of 27 million people in our nation. Despite huge political twists and turns and ups and downs, the new CA has at last started its business with the new mandate from the people. This new CA, however, is yet to acquire its full membership. Twenty-six members are still to be nominated by the Council of Ministers, and much political lobbying has been taking place among the leaders, political parties and stakeholders over these positions. Again huge questions need to be asked today. When can we hope to see free and fair politics in our country? When can we hope to see this country run by competent politicians, who show true quality and a sense of responsibility, rather than having to rely on political bhagbanda, nepotism and money len-den? When shall we learn the lesson that it really is time for politicians to pull together and for the national interest to supplant highly partisan politics?

Now that the new Assembly has been activated following much political hue and cry and a bitter tussle between President and Head of the Election Government, the nation is looking towards the formation of a new government. Soon – it may already have started - a huge controversial debate can be expected over whether to elect the new President as per the new mandate within the Assembly and outside of it. Again questions need to be asked. How, for instance, can the formation of the government be completed ahead of the nomination of the additional twenty-six members? Can the Assembly be considered legally or constitutionally formed without these members? Would that not show disrespect for democratic norms, traditions and values and curtail the inherent right of the members of the Assembly? Why do a few politicians seek to ignore the mandate of the people? Why are the political parties and politicians taking so long to agree on power sharing? Where is any evidence of consensus, understanding and shared vision that is so urgently needed among our politicians today? What can be done? We have a few points on how we might address the present political circumstances and on how we might innovate for change.

First, it is shame that the nation failed to form a consensus government and now the forming of majority government seems inevitable. Getting a new government without any delay is a vital. Government based on greater political understanding must become the mantra for resolving the current on-going political crisis. It will be wise and democratic if the government is formed only after the CA achieves its full membership. If the CA commences business before a single candidate is nominated for the twenty six seats, questions of constitutional and legal legitimacy will instantly arise. The purpose of the new CA is not only to draft a constitution and complete the long on-going political transition but also to rectify past mistakes, to bring the country back on track, and, most importantly, to formulate a long term agenda for its future.

A government that is based on a broad political understanding that is stable, functions well and is led by a competent personality is vital if the nation wishes to acquire a new constitution within a year. Power sharing issues, such as elections for President and Vice President and CA Chairman and Vice-Chairman, and the composition of the new government, must be based on inclusiveness and political sincerity. Principles and political culture must dictate the outcome of each issue rather than yet another power bargain. The size of government must not as before be inflated in order to grant a place to every political leader as the part of the bhagbanda: it must be small in size, effective and efficient and capable of running the everyday administration without difficulty. The prime focus must be on drafting the constitution. Most importantly, those political parties and independent members of the Assembly who are not willing to join the government must sit in opposition and work constructively as such. They must play the role of promoter, mediator, and protector of democratic values.

Secondly, there must be no debate or political controversy over accepting and endorsing the demised CA’s achievements and political agreements on various political issues. Though the new CA does not represent direct continuity from the last CA, it must unhesitatingly take aboard the progress made by its predecessor and not start again from scratch. This should have been made clear at the new CA’s first meeting, but unfortunately the leadership failed to do this. If the new CA starts from zero in drafting the constitution, the one year allowed by the political parties will be insufficient. Endorsing the achievement of the demised CA will not only save time and resources but, most importantly, the efforts of the last CA will not have been in vain.

Thirdly, there is one aspect of the peace making process which is crucial for constitution-writing and for establishing a durable peace and a rights-based society: it is crucial also in deterring ongoing impunity and future lawlessness. The new government must establish the long-delayed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Disappearances Commission without delay. Conflict-era perpetrators still walk freely on our streets and are unpunished. The tasks of writing the new constitution, of establishing a durable peace and of bringing abusers to justice are interconnected and form an integral part of the political process. Transitional justice issues must surely dominate the future course of politics in this country, and the new government is under a legal obligation to take this issue extremely seriously. However, the TRC must not merely be regarded as a means of taking revenge and punishing perpetrators: it must establish new social, political and economic parameters for the sake of the country’s future wellbeing. The Supreme Court has already ordered the government to establish a Truth and Reconciliation and Disappearances Commission in accordance with international law and standards. To ignore that order would undermine the very system of justice in this country.

Finally it is important that the national interest is placed above all else: that is above all partisan and ideological interests. The new CA must be the platform for national dialogue to achieve a common dream and to serve a common purpose. Every political issue must go through the Assembly so that it can be debated fully and be voted on and approved on a majority basis. A few leaders or big party bosses must not as in the last CA be allowed to dominate the House. Hotel-room seminars and discussions on issues of public interest involving just a few leaders must this time be strictly avoided: this is vital if we are properly to institutionalize and consolidate democracy. Party leaders must change their attitude and behaviour from being self-indulgent, tyrannical within their party, bigoted, and of course intoxicated by hunger for power and petty self-interest. Will they listen? Will they learn from their past mistakes? We fear not, but let us all hope.

The political parties must act now speedily to negotiate power sharing, form a government, and sort out the presidential issue. At all times the national interest must be allowed to dominate the politics. It must be the central consideration of any debate. Party leaders must cease craving for personal power. They must actively contribute to the writing of the constitution. Their only aim must be to end the turbulent political transition that is creating a very uncertain future for our nation. The constitution is integral to establishing justice and a durable peace, and it must be acceptable to all our citizens. It is the first essential for transforming a ten-year conflict into a lasting peace and for institutionalising democratic norms and values across the nation.

Dr Basnet is a Researcher and Lecturer in International Human Rights Law. Mr Shailendra K Shrestha is a former Chief of the Armed Police Force. Now he is a prominent social activist in the country. He has been actively engaged with Curry without Worry, an NGO who feeds a healthy food on Every Tuesday for the hungry and needy souls of the street. He is also actively engaging on awareness programs to control drug abuse by children and youth in the country.

 

 

 


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