The chief justice became chief of executive. But polls still cannot take place
Less than three weeks after the top leadership of the four major parties made Supreme Court Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi head of the electoral government,the election commission has made it clear that the constituent assembly polls cannot take place within the early June deadline. While missing a poll deadline is nothing new,this instance goes against the very basis of having an incumbent CJ as chairman of the council of ministers.
The leaders had stated that Regmi as chief of executive was meant purely to restore constitutional order by holding elections. On Regmis insistence,they agreed to insert a provision in their agreement that should some situation emerge beyond control,the election may take place in November instead. But the ECs inability to hold polls in June is largely because of the refusal,by most political parties,other than the big four,to recognise the constitutional status of the executive. They call Regmis government,packed with retired civil servants,a puppet of the four-party syndicate a high-level machinery of the party chiefs with no constitutional status. The governments constitutional validity is yet to be determined by the SC. Regmi is under pressure to quit as CJ by many parties,the Bar,human rights groups and civil society,who fear the SC may not be acting freely,fairly and fearlessly in Regmis case.
At least 33 parties,including the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists,the breakaway group from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists,have told President Ram Baran Yadav that they will not participate in polls until there is a level playing field. They also demand Regmi be replaced by a politician as prime minister. The EC has already suspended the process of updating the voters list.
The EU and its ambassadors seem to be the first to review their stance and state publicly that a conducive atmosphere is the first precondition for a free and fair poll. The EU had actively lobbied for Regmi. Maoist chief Prachanda reminded Regmi that he was installed to conduct the polls in June,and asked him to announce the date at the earliest. Regmis erstwhile supporters among domestic and international groups are clearly divided.
Like Prachanda,Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala and CPN-UML chief Jhalanath Khanal are facing hostile responses within their parties for defying their respective central committees warning that the CJs appointment as executive head was a bad idea. The CJ as well as the four leaders have been reduced to members of a helpless club representing the nations predicament,quite apathetic to the undercurrent of mass frustration and fury.
Law and order is not favourable,as two incidents demonstrated. On March 22,the president had to cancel his trip to Pokhara in central Nepal,where he was scheduled to inaugurate the national convention of the Federation of Nepali Journalists. Two weeks later,CPN-M cadres symbolically captured the vast stretch of Regmis agricultural land along with that of his father-in-law in western Nepals Bardia district. The police removed the red flags planted and enhanced security,but the events show the general state of law and order.
Credible poll surveys have shown that the pro-monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal,which has been campaigning for a Hindu Nepal as well,has emerged as one of the favourites. This coincides with the substantial decline in public support for the Maoists,perceived as the biggest reason behind todays chaos and uncertainty. The NC and CPN-UML are sharply divided over future political equations while the Maoists are already divided within. The situation is clearly not favourable for the parties. But the blame of the current failure might stick to the CJ,which means yet another experiment with Nepal as a political laboratory has failed.