Prachanda and Bhattarai publicly confess their mistakes,but fail to dent popular cynicism
Nepals politics witnessed something unusual last week. Prachanda,chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist,publicly admitted that he was responsible for the failure of the Constituent Assembly to prepare and deliver the constitution. In fact,he made several confessions together. Not making G.P. Koirala,then president of the Nepali Congress,the first president of Nepal in July 2008,prime minister,sacking General Rookmangud Katawal as army chief in May 2009,and not bringing key ingredients of the future constitution to debate in the CA were my mistakes,Prachanda said. His deputy and former PM Baburam Bhattarai apologised to journalists in Kavre district for physical assaults made by his supporters about six months ago something he had endorsed earlier promising not to repeat such attacks.
But the complete erosion in the credibility of the four major parties and their leaders only invites popular cynicism: are these confessions yet another tactical ploy to seem accountable? Along with these confessions,the high-level political committee (HLPC) comprising the UCPN-M and the three other major parties finally conceded to one major demand of the breakaway Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist a roundtable conference of all parties a key pre-condition for the CPN-Ms participation in the November 19 polls.
The HLPC,sans constitutional status,continues to assist and guide the electoral government led by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi. The CPN-M insists that Regmi quit as PM for a political electoral government and the November election be postponed. It also wants a clear understanding among all sides on the future constitution. Nepali Congress chairman Sushil Koirala and senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) Madhav Nepal,have,of late,acknowledged that going to the polls without the CPN-M will be meaningless. But the UCPN-M,the parent party of the CPN-M,asserts that the election date will not be postponed.
The proposed roundtable conference has to sort out many other issues,including whether it is going to be a forum for only the political parties represented in the first and failed CA,or whether it will have all sides of the political spectrum. CPN-M leader Mohan Baidya insists on the second model. The last elections were held in an euphoric atmosphere,with those identified with the old regime too terrorised to participate. Keeping them out of the roundtable process now will discourage a conciliatory approach. Prachandas confessions will be meaningless without addressing the toll his mistakes have taken.
There has been too much compromise over power at the cost of values and policy in the last seven years. After a rigid stance on the single ethnicity-based federalism all these years,Bhattarai said last week that such a proposition was not possible to implement. The UCPN-M,as the biggest party,naturally seems the biggest culprit in public esteem for the failures,and that is the reason for Prachanda and Bhattarais confessions at this late hour. Transition demands compromise,conciliation and accommodation of adversaries. But power-based equations at the cost of democratic values have exposed the key actors. The power equation,derogatorily referred to as the four-party syndicate,has come to control the functioning of the executive and judiciary besides the legislature,without any semblance of accountability. That has also seen the destruction of the independence of the judiciary ever since Regmi took over as executive head. The cost of this exercise is perhaps even greater than that of the mistakes Prachanda has now come to admit.
Unless all sides agree on ways to restore democratic norms,Nepal will be nowhere near shortening the already prolonged transition. An election and an independent judiciary are not either/ or elements of a democracy.
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