Yuba Nath Lamsal
If the developments over the last six years since the peace process began are any indication, Nepal’s politics has touched the rock bottom from the standpoint of political ethic and culture. By all standards, we can arrive at a conclusion that the contemporary politics of Nepal can be best described as a perverted exercise under the façade of democracy and peace process. The country has continuously fallen into the trap of constitutional, political and ethical crises one after another—the possible syndromes of a failed state—which Nepal may not be able to avoid if these trends continue unabated for another couple of years.
The peace process that began after the singing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2006 definitely heralded a new era in Nepal’s political history—not because it simply marked an end to a decade long violent conflict between the state and the insurgent Maoist guerillas and provided a dawn of hope for peaceful politics. It is because the stakeholders of Nepal’s peace process, some consciously and some under compulsion, reached to the root of all conflicts and expressed readiness to address all the discords and disgruntlements subsisting in the society. The CPA came in the form of an assorted prescription of all the ills that the country suffered for years and decades.
The process began from the political nadir and looked for a journey to the zenith. As they say ‘the road to hell, too, is paved with good intention’, the beginning of the peace process was definitely noble. Everyone was elated and the people cheered at home and on the streets when the accord was signed that brought the insurgent Maoists to peaceful mainstream. However, things did not move in a way people had expected. No sooner the CPA was signed, and then the devil crept into the mind of leaders of political parties, who then started calculating their partisan gains out of the new political arrangement. In the frontline were Girija Prasad Koirala, who was the prime minister, and Prachanda—the charismatic guerilla leader. In the political tactics, Prachanda outmaneuvered Koirala, who had earlier been known as the shrewdest political player of contemporary Nepal. There were obvious reasons behind this situation which compelled Koirala to make compromises on certain issues. In the first place, this was Koirala’s last stint as a country’s executive chief, whose responsibility was to transform Nepal into a peaceful democracy, under any circumstances. His sole objective was to bring the Maoists into the peaceful political mainstream and establish himself as a country’s savior. Moreover, he had the challenge to mend his earlier image of hardliner anti-communist and prove himself as a liberal and democratic statesman, for which he gambled and risked his long political career. And he partially succeeded as he accommodated all forces of the country, on the one hand and commanded huge trust and respect from the entire international community, on the other. He was accepted as a leader and savior not only by his own Congress cadres but by all including communists, royalists and rightists. But his ability to maneuver slowly diminished after he assumed the premiership following the success of Jana Andolan II. Prachanda emerged more tactical and shrewd in political maneuvering.
With the initiation of the peace process right from the time when the 12-point agreement was signed, a new spirit of consensus and cooperative politics had dawned in Nepal. Started with the 12-point agreement, the cooperative politics developed into a joint Jana Andolan of 2005-06 and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and culminated in the constituent assembly election. Although some signs of fractures and fissures had surfaced right from the beginning of the peace process, the chasm became more visible after the dates of the election to the constituent assembly were declared. The parties appeared suspicious with one another especially the Nepali Congress and the UCPN-Maoist on the possible position in post election politics. The confidence of the parties about the election results was shaky but they wanted to be in a better position by any means. Every party wanted the election to be held at their favorable time and condition. The only hope for the Nepali Congress to be in the better position in the election was its dominant role in the government as Congress chief GP Koirala was the Prime Minister. The Maoists, too, were not confident of their electoral victory and similar case was with the CPN-UML. This was the reason why the election as postponed twice. But each of the three main parties was hopeful of better position.
However, the election results came as a surprise to all and shock to the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML. Earlier projected as the winners or front runners, the Congress and the CPN-UML trailed poorly in the second and the third place. The Maoists emerged as the largest party. In the first-past- the post system, the Maoists had won simple majority—121 out of 240. The Maoists failed to secure majority because of the proportionate representation system, the system which the Maoists had vigorously pushed for, whereas other parties were against it. It is ironical to note here the fact that those who advocated the proportionate electoral system suffered and those who opposed it benefited. Had the electoral system been fully majoritarian, the Maoists would have emerged as the clear-cut winner with comfortable majority in the Constituent Assembly. The Maoists were short of majority only because of the proportionate system of election. Paradoxically, the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML benefited due to the proportionate system, which they had earlier opposed. In the 240 seats under first-past-the post system the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML had won only 36 and 32 seats respectively. Their position slightly improved due to proportionate system. If the electoral system proposed and championed by the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML had been accepted and adopted, their position would have been further marginalized. More surprising was the electoral position of the Madhesi parties, which, put together, emerged as the fourth force in Nepal’s political scene. Earlier, the mainstream parties had underestimated the Madhesi parties and they did not take them seriously. But the position of the Madhesi parties in the Constituent Assembly definitely changed the entire political equation of the country, which shocked all including the Maoists, Congress and the CPN-UML.
Had the Congress and the CPN-UML got even a slightest idea of such a shocking result, they would never have allowed the election to be held. The unexpected post-election scenario created more fissures among the parties and the politics of mistrust and intrigue began among the parties, which served a blow to the politics of consensus. This was the beginning of the political deadlock and instability in the country which continues even today. Although the Constituent Assembly election was a historic achievement in Nepal’s politics, the composition of the Assembly was a bane for Nepal, which is the prime reason behind its failure and also the cause of present political crisis.
Now the country is in the worst political crisis due mainly to the lack of vision, lack of democratic culture and lack of ethical politics. The much hyped peace process that began with the politics of consensus is, now, in limbo that has instilled a height of apathy and frustration in the mind of the people. This situation arose due mainly to parties’ decision to deviate from the politics of consensus that began right after the Constituent Assembly election.
Now the country and the people are not the subject of concern for the political parties and their leaders. What have concerned them are power, position and property. The goal and objective of parties and leaders are to go to power, cling onto it and amass property, through both legal and illegal means. As a result, the governance and the rule of law have been a political parody marked by rampant corruption, abuse of authority and a height of political deceit and duplicity. The country is in the lurch of shameful political crisis one after another.
In this fight for survival, parties are resorting to all measures and tactics, both moral and otherwise, which have cost the country and democratic functionary dearly. The political developments and rhetoric of the leaders that we have seen and heard over the last five years seem to have defied all universally accepted logics of democracy and political culture. This situation only leads the country towards more political danger, disaster and perversion, which must be averted at the earliest. As the parties are in the cockpit of politics, they have the responsibility to find a solution—a solution that is logical, rational and acceptable to the people— to steer the country out of the present perverted politics.