Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Unity Among Parties A Must Again

Yuba Nath Lamsal 
Politics and politicians often wear too many jewels of adjective in their crown of power. Great thinkers like Aristotle, Plato and Socrates defined politics as an art of governance for the common good of citizens. However, Machiavelli defined politics as a craft to deceive people and maintain authority over them. With the march of time and dawn of modern civilisation, the idealist definition of politics started slowly losing its charm and Machiavellian politics came to rule the roost. Everywhere in the world, politics is now being branded as a nasty vocation scrambling for power, position and perks, while leaders are called as the bosses rather than servants of the people.

It is perhaps this reason why politics seems to have lost attraction for ordinary citizenry all over the world. It is perhaps this reason why some tend to call politics a ‘dirty game or a last resort of scoundrels’. However, these are nasty comments on politics made by cynics. Any rational person does not subscribe to such malicious views on politics because politics is not always a dirty game but an art of governance. Politics is made dirty by the misconduct of those who handle it. The way modern day politics is being handled, it is becoming a power game in which its movers and shakers play ugly games to grab power and retain it in whatever way possible in which morale and logics have a little say.
Nepal’s current politics is suffering from similar syndrome. The level of consistency in the rhetoric and action of our politicians is far low, which sometimes raises the question of credibility. What politicians say is often taken just for granted but not taken seriously. This is so because words and actions of the political parties and leaders seldom match, while ideological oscillation and vacillation are creating a huge gap between the people and the parties. But we have no option other than trusting the parties and politicians.
Not all politicians are equal and they are not to be equally blamed for what we have been witnessing at present. Nepal has, of course, produced some visionary leaders who fought throughout their lives for the cause, ideals, ideology, people and the country. BP Koirala, Puspa Lal Shrestha, Manmohan Adhikari, Madan Bhandari and Ganesh Man Singh are some personalities who commanded high esteem and respect because they always stood firm and unwavering for ideals and ideology, for which they also had to suffer a lot. BP Koirala is, perhaps, the most towering personality in Nepal’s contemporary political history whereas Puspa Lal was a great revolutionary.  
But present day politics seems to have deviated from the ideal and ideology these visionary leaders pursued, although the major political parties claim to have followed the path and ideals their founders championed. Now politics ceases to be a mission to serve the people but has become a vocation to be pursued for profit. Ideals and ideology have taken the back seat of the parties and politicians. Immediate gains and profit are what make the difference and guide and motivate the leaders and their works. This is a bitter reality of the present day politics in Nepal.
But there are still rays of hope as our leaders have realised that they made mistakes and they would correct the past wrongdoings. That is a silver lining in our politics which makes up optimistic. It is this realisation which brought all major parties together last year that made the promulgation of the constitution possible.
Democracy is the system in which different actors having diverse ideology and interests exist. They have differences on different issues. But they narrow differences and make compromise on certain national issues for the greater cause of the country and the people. This is the beauty of democracy. That is exactly what happened last year prior to the promulgation of the constitution.
However, this wisdom and unity collapsed and crumbled like a house of cards soon after the promulgation of the constitution. The political parties had been expected to demonstrate their unprecedented unity until the next parliamentary election, which is crucial for the implementation of the new constitution and institutionalisation of all the gains we achieved through different struggles and movements in the past.
Now the challenge lies on all political parties how best and successful they will be able to implement the constitution. Elections are the best and immediate step for the successful implementation of the constitution. However, the vacillating position of our parties on some political issues for facilitating the election appears to be doubtful.
If the parties and government truly keep their promises and act accordingly, election for the local bodies are to be held within the next six months or probably by mid April, 2017. Constitutionally, the election for central parliament  of all levels (local, provincial and central parliamentary level elections) are to be held by January 2018 because the tenure of the present Legislature-Parliament will come to an end in the third week of January, 2018. The local and provincial level elections are also necessary because the upper chamber of parliament cannot be complete without the provincial and local elections.
The constitution has stipulated a bicameral federal parliament consisting of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly. The 275 member House of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, is to be composed of 165 members directly to be elected from the people on the basis of first-past-the post system, whereas the rest 110 are to be elected on the basis of proportionate representation system. The tenure of the House of Representatives is five years, unless it is dissolved earlier in accordance with the constitutional provision. The upper chamber of parliament, which is called the National Assembly, will have 59 members and its tenure is of six years. The National Assembly is a permanent body, of which one third of its members are elected in every two years. The National Assembly, according to the Article 86 of the constitution, will have 56 members to be elected by an electoral college consisting of members of the state assemblies of all provinces, chairpersons and vice chairpersons of all village bodies and mayors and deputy mayors of all municipalities and three members to be nominated by the President on recommendation of the Government of Nepal.

The government and the Election Commission seem to be committed and also serious to hold all three levels of election in time within the next 14 months. But the environment for the election, so far, has not been created. There are political and legislative issues connected to the election. These issues must be settled before the elections are announced. The most important issue at hand is the one raised by Madhesi and janajati parties, which is related to the demarcation of the federal provinces, for which amendment in the constitution is required. However, the amendment is not possible without unity among the major parties. If this issue is not settled, it will be difficult to hold the elections. The parties are, therefore, required to once again demonstrate the sense of unity and cooperate with one another for the successful implementation of the constitution.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trump's victory and global anxiety

Yuba Nath Lamsal
Against all odds and pre-poll predictions, Republican Donald Trump has won in the presidential election defeating his rival Hillary Clinton of the Democratic Party. Although Hilary Clinton secured more popular votes than Donald Trump did, Trump was declared victorious due to the US electoral system. His election victory has definitely surprised many both in the United States itself and in the world. His victory has proved all pre-election opinion polls wrong as most the exit polls had portrayed Hillary as the most possible winner. American voters chose Trump better than Hilary Clinton to run the country for at least another four years because they were fed up with the eight years of Democrats' administration.
Now Trump will take over the presidency of the United States on January 20, which will mark the end of eight year rule of the Democratic Party and beginning of the Republican era in the world's most powerful country. Now the White House under Trump is expected to be tougher in several international issues and also some domestic matters as the Republican Party, which is also known as the Grand Old Party or GOP, is considered to be a conservative, while the Democratic Party is viewed as a liberal one. The election was neck and neck only to have been slightly gone into the Republican favor as American voters wanted a change, although cosmetic because there cannot be significant change in domestic and international affairs despite the change of person and party in the US administration. There is a thin border between these two parties on policy issues except on tax matters. However, the United States administration under the Republican President is believed to be little more conservative in domestic front and hawkish in the international arena.
With Donald Trump being elected as the new president of the United States, the world seems to be a little anxious and also scary as to what implication and impact the policies and actions of the new American President would have on the global political and economic order. When any new American president takes over the White House, the world always becomes anxious to know policies and position of the new American executive chief as American policies have greater impact globally in various sectors and sections. So far, the American policies, under most of the presidents, have been more of continuity rather than a change in foreign policy and international affairs, except differences on rhetoric. However, the case with President-elect Donald Trump appears to be different as his remarks during the election campaign have definitely made the world more scary than anxious.
Given the economic size, military might and its global presence, the US politics and policies always leave distinct marks in the world. Campaigner Trump and President Trump will be definitely different and he, as president, will be more practical and pragmatic. But the world is still watching closely, seriously, anxiously and cautiously whether he would really meant what he spoke during the election campaign or his remarks were simply political rhetoric never to be put into action.
Some of the controversies Trump has raised during the election campaign include: raising a ten feet wall along the border between the USA and Mexico to check 'illigrants'  (illegal immigrants) entering into the United Stated, eviction of all illegal immigrants from the United States, whose number is estimated to be about 11 million, sending his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to jail for 'email scam', cutting financial contribution to UN, withdrawing from NATO, policy shift on Russia virtually allowing its greater role in the Central Asian republics and eastern Europe, designating China as a currency manipulator and 'punishing' it, and adopting protectionist policy on trade by raising tax on imports. These remarks have definitely raised concerns worldwide. Russia seems to be a little enthusiastic but still remains cautious only waiting to see what exactly Trump would do when he will assume the presidency on January 20, 2017. China is concerned and cautious by his remarks than any other countries. If his remarks put into action, they are likely to seriously hurt US-China trade and overall relations. US economy is closely tied with the Chinese economy and the vice versa and slight imbalance in trade with China will have serious impact not only US economy but also global economic order.  
Perhaps realizing this, Trump appears to have toned down his earlier remarks after the election victory. After the election, against his promise to deport all illegal immigrant, he announced to expel only those illegal immigrants who have committed crimes and this will amount to about 3 million, which has given some sigh of relief to almost 11 million illegal immigrants living and working in the United States.
On issue concerning raising a wall along the US-Mexico border, he still seems to be firm and committed, although it will have negative impact on US-Mexico relations as Mexico has criticized these remarks. This will not only antagonize Mexico but will send negative message to the entire Latino community within the United States and Central as well as South Asian countries.
On the foreign policy front too, his views were a little weird which include relations with Russia, China and even other countries. If he really meant what he said during the election, the US relations and role with its allies in Europe and other continent, too, will witness change. Trump during the election campaign had said that the United States 'might not come to the defense of an attacked NATO ally that hadn’t fulfilled its obligation to make payments'. It sent shock waves to NATO countries, which many analysts call it a pro-Russian stance. However, he has remained silent on this issue after the election victory implying that campaigner Trump and President Trump will be and will have to be different.

He seems to have subdued his voice on China, too, as he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping recently during which he emphasized the need for cooperation with China on varied international and economic issues. His tune and tenor have been markedly different after the election victory, which indicate that Donald Trump's rhetoric and action will not match as he will continue to carry on the Republican Party foreign and domestic policy and he will not be fundamentally different in global politics and international issues.