Election, Statute must to strengthen republican system
Yuba Nath Lamsal
Today’ we are observing the Republic day. This day marks the historic moment that heralded a new chapter in Nepal’s political history by formally bidding adieu to more than two-century old monarchy and giving birth to the republican system in which people are sovereign and supreme to chart out their own destiny. On this occasion, we must take into account a kind of dire reality that we have not yet been able to institutionalize the new found system even in a half-decade. We are still in the phase of political transition—the phase in which we have done away with the old system but have not yet fully developed and institutionalized the new one. In other words, the country is still in the political labor pain struggling to give birth to a system in which the achievements and agenda of the people raised during the Jana Andolan II and all other hitherto movements of the people would be solemnly formalized that would usher in an era of equality, peace, stability, democracy and prosperity in the political history of Nepal.
The constitution that our leaders and political parties promised to give the country through the Constituent Assembly (CA) written by the democratically elected people’s representatives has still remained as a pipedream in our political spectrum. It had been expected that the issue and demand raised by the people for more than 60 years would come into final realization with the promulgation of the constitution from the CA. We have embarked on this journey but the road ahead has always been bumpy and jerky.
We practically started the journey for a constitution to be written by the elected representatives of the people in order to institutionalize republican democracy, federalism and secularism, among several other important agenda. The election for the Constituent Assembly was held five years ago and accordingly the Assembly was formed. But the assembly failed to produce a constitution in four years and saw its bizarre demise, which was definitely unfortunate and embarrassed condition.
The demise of the Constituent Assembly without delivering a constitution was not an ordinary event. The first Constituent Assembly did miss the historic opportunity of writing a people’s constitution. This event will have a long-term repercussion and ramification in our national politics. If we look at the development over the last five years, we arrive at the conclusion that several factors and actors played role behind curtains in failing the CA, which our parties and leaders failed to comprehend. There were different interest groups in the Constituent Assembly and so were the parties of diverse political and ideological hues. These interest groups wanted the constitution to suit their own interests, ranging from lingual, ethnic, religious, regional and strategic interests. Similarly, the diverse class and ideological orientation also took the parties to a point from which they could not retreat for political consideration. Basically, there were different kinds of forces which had and still have distinct differences and diversity in the political outlook. From the perspective of their outlook, they can be classified into three broad categories— regressive or retrogressive, status-quoist and progressive forces. The regressive force wants to bring back the clock of history to pre-2005-06 period. In other words, these forces, want to fail and defame the republican system and revive the monarchy that has already been dumped in the trash of history. Though feebly, this force sometimes raises the demand of reviving the 1990 constitution. The revival of the 1990 constitution would mean the revival of constitutional monarchy. These forces are, therefore, anti-republic elements. But much water has flown down in Bagmati and Bishnumati since 1990. And the desire to revive monarchy is a mere dream as wishing to revive monarchy is like talking of reviving a person who has died and already been cremated. There has been a great deal of change in the political consciousness of the people in Nepal since 1990. The history has established the fact that feudalism and monarchy are incompatible with democracy. It was proved in the past that all our efforts to institutionalize democracy under monarchy were unsuccessful in. It has also been proved that monarchy always tried to trample democracy and failed. People realized the fact that democracy, stability and economic progress cannot be achieved under monarchy and they finally rose against the feudal monarchy. Hence monarchy was abolished and a republican set was ushered in. Now there is no going back from this achievement.
The second type of political force is seeking to maintain status quo that does not appear too interested in institutionalizing and strengthening the political agenda and gains raised and achieved in Jana Andolan II. The progressive force is alone seeking to bring about a radical change in political, economic, social and cultural fronts with simultaneously institutionalizing the achievements of Jana Andolan II. The clash of interest among these three forces is primarily responsible for the kind of deadlock in the last Constituent Assembly that lead to failure in delivering a new constitution. The regressive force was weak and insignificant both in terms of number in the CA as well as influence among the people. But their interest converged with the interest of the status quoist force. Thus, a new polarization took place in the Constituent Assembly with regressive and status quoist forces in one side and progressive and radical force on the other side. This polarization was reflected in the debate and decision on key issues to be incorporated in the new constitution. The federalism and its structure and state restructuring and governance model were two main issues that polarized these forces into two camps with both not backing out from their earlier stance. This failed the CA and derailed the constitution writing and the entire political process.
Republican set up is here to stay in Nepal and the new found republic must be strengthened. The new constitution is a must to strengthen the republican democracy and all other agendas of Jana Andolan and Maoist‘s People’s War’. The first and the foremost priority at present is the writing the new constitution. But one process of constitution writing was killed and another process has not yet begun. Thus, an early election for a new Constituent Assembly must be held to which all political parties have, in principle, agreed. The interim caretaker government headed by the sitting chief justice with ex-bureaucrats being the ministers has been formed for the purpose of holding the election. Although the interim government appears to be serious and sincere to its mandate and historic responsibility, it has not yet been able to assure the people that the election would be held within the period it has promised. The government has yet to announce the date for the election at the earliest which alone would assure the people about the certainty of the election.
In a democracy, there is no alternative to election. Moreover, people may not accept any kind of conspiracy to scuttle the election process and a constitution through a backdoor. There have been undercurrent conspiracies to derail the process of writing and promulgating the new constitution through the Constituent Assembly. These conspiracies are being hatched by the rightist and reactionary forces in overt and covert collusion with the status quoists to wreck the constitution writing as well as the ongoing political process. Thus, parties and people must be cautious against such conspiracies and extend cooperation to hold the election. But election alone does not guarantee that constitution would be promulgated. This is so because the issues and disputes that had led to the demise of the previous CA have not yet been addressed and settled. If those issues were not settled, there is no certainty that the second CA, too, would also be able to give the country a new constitution. But we must be optimistic and hope that the parties have learnt lessons from their past mistakes, setbacks and failure. Learning from the past mistakes, the parties would arrive at a common point in order to give the country a constitution and political solution. This alone would safeguard the achievements of Jana Andolan and also strengthen the republican system. Perhaps, this year’s Republican Day would give all of us this important lesson.