Courtesy: People’s Review
We asked Shrish S. Rana for his analysis of the current political situation. The results:
Q. What now? Where are we heading?
A. I think the country is gearing towards another phase of agitations. The onset of the monsoon and the preoccupation of the population with the planting season will inhibit participation, but the jockeying has begun on the streets and the momentum will be allowed to grow. Each of the major parties will be taking to the streets gradually with their interpretation of what the constitution is and what the president should do in this situation of constitutional limbo and each will be poised to strike at our ceremonial president’s decision when it comes if it does not suit them.
Q. How do you explain the dissolution of the constituent assembly?
A. As is evident, each party is blaming the other for the dissolution. This is a convenient cover-up, however, of the fact that, decisions of this type having been outsourced, our extra-national patrons have deemed a constitution of their preference not forthcoming for the moment. The reasons may vary. Contradictory demands of constitutional agenda, unreliable partners, changed objectives, questionable motives, all come into play perhaps. But the fact remains that the constitution of the federal republic of Nepal was made elusive and the ‘foreign hand’ in this is among the many charges being traded by the Maoists and the rest. We have been saying since the very outset that the constitution will be drafted when the agenda of our foreign patrons will be met. But the patrons now are many it seems and their strategic objectives are contradictory.
Of, course, on the face of it, despite the charges being traded, it is the four major parties, the Maoists, the Nepali Congress, the UML and the Terai parties who coalesced in their actions to scuttle the constitution. If you recall the charged atmosphere on the streets the day of the constitutional deadline, you will only wonder at the contradictory demands being voiced there and you will be surprised at the fact that government, that by then was taking an all party shape with the entry of the Congress and the UML in the Baburam cabinet, had at one time or other assured the fulfillment of the demands of each of these agitating groups. Something was bound to give and it was the Constituent Assembly and not the constitution.
Q. What about the dissolution of the constituent assembly and the state of the interim constitution?
A. I have often stated in your columns that the we the sovereign Nepali people have had our sovereignty usurped by the leaders of the major parties and, in the process, we have been held captives to the whims of our political leaders and their international patrons in the name of democracy. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the fact that an elected constituent assembly in which this sovereignty presided under the interim constitution was so thoroughly made redundant in the making of the constitution that the ultimate denial of even its formal dissolution seemed only natural because at one point or the other the constitution became the sole preserve of the political parties and their leaders. The people, as we have been saying, have long been forgotten. In effect our sovereignty has been usurped by a leadership and the pretense of a constituent assembly in which the interim constitution says our sovereignty lies is no longer needed. This also explains the state of the constitution.
The interim constitution at the moment is what the leaders of the Big Three and the Terai say it is. They are bickering again as to its interpretation -not to our surprise- since they have demonstrated time and again that the constitution must be such as to advantage them. The consensus among them is still on the fact that there must be consensus. Once that consensus is arrived at, that is what our interim constitution will be. In effect, it is our political parties and their leaders that are sovereign. This is also because our foreign patrons deem it so.
There is a silver lining though. The waning days of the constituent assembly demonstrated very much that contradictory demands placed on the system for purely partisan purposes appear to have mobilized the people outside the political parties represented in the constituent assembly. It is this factor that will perhaps determine the future course of action. The parties have exhausted their popular support. Any decision made in the name of the people by the leaders of the mainstream parties as to the constitution will now no longer have the sanction of the people. This will be seen in the streets.
Q. What of the President?
A. Please recall that these political parties forced the king to recall a duly dissolved parliament through agitation. The head of state at that time, as also now, was also the symbol of national unity and the guardian of the constitution. But the sovereignty at that time lay with the king in parliament which meant that, with parliament dissolved, the king had the tools to seek the consensus denied him by the major political parties. The head of state at the moment has not been granted any other tool than to ask for consensus from the stake holders. A purely ceremonial head of state whose actions are already questioned by the assertive executive—both having been elected by the defunct constituent assembly—is now going to make a thoroughly political decision at the behest of political parties whose constitutional monopoly absurdly remains. As I have said repeatedly, fundamental principles of constitutionalism have been flagrantly junked in Janaandolan 2 and the pretense that constitutionalism and democracy is what is being attempted is becoming harder to swallow by the people at large.
Q. What is the solution, then?
A. It is not for nothing that I have all along been saying that we must go back to where we erred for the sustainable corrections to be made. The unconstitutional treatment given to the constitution of 1990 by the major stakeholders, the political parties, must be put right. For whatever solution to emerge, the only constitutionality now to be derived from will have to be the constitution of 1990. The interim constitution has even exhausted the ability of its endless amendments. How can one envisage that a consensus among political parties no longer popularly sanctioned constitutionally in a legislature telling an executive whose term has already expired with the expiry of the constituent assembly to table any constitutional amendment to a ceremonial president a future course to be constitutionally endorsed after elections in the future to be accepted by the people as constitutional? In the Nepali case, perhaps, with the sanction of our foreign mentors, even this is to be rammed down our throats and we have to accept it as constitutional? The joke, after all, has been on us for quite some time now.