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Divided like never before

What are the chances of a new legislature delivering the constitution?

What are the chances of a new legislature delivering the constitution?

Things have seemingly changed in Nepal. Official programmes of ministers and the prime minister hardly draw any politicians here. The Supreme Court chief justice’s takeover as the chairman of the council of ministers,with his cabinet packed with retired civil servants,has apparently altered the composition of the crowd. Politicians,especially of the four major parties,however,continue to operate from the outside in an effort to control the cabinet. So far,Khil Raj Regmi has tolerated the four-party dictate. But will the extra-constitutional status of the four-party machinery be a lasting phenomenon?

The central committee of the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) still insist that Regmi must quit as CJ to ensure judicial independence. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M),the breakaway group from the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M),goes a step further and says,“Regmi must be dismissed as PM and power handed over to the political parties” — something the parties demanded when former King Gyanendra took over in February 2005.

The international community,supportive of Regmi’s takeover,is apparently losing its faith,given the many compromises the head of the executive has already made on issues vital to democracy and justice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,Navi Pillay,expressed her dissatisfaction with a recent ordinance supporting amnesty for those guilty of gross human rights violation during the decade-long conflict that ended in 2006. Similar grievances were expressed by by Jeffrey Feltman,UN under-secretary for political affairs.

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Feltman was in Nepal to encourage more political parties,including the CPN-M,to participate in the general election,proposed for June. But the response was negative. The UN in particular and the diplomatic bureaucracy in general seem to be gathering only the positive responses on the basis of their regular contact with the four parties. There is a huge gap between the claim of the four parties’ top leaders — that the country is poised for polls — and the visible public mood of indifference as well as the disapproval of most political parties about the polls being “thrust upon” them.

Yet,Nepali parties,including the big four,keep making rhetorical defences of their move to have the CJ take over as head of government. The common refrain: “We took the decision under compelling circumstances.” Regmi,who knows the parties’ depleting authority,now appeals to the bureaucracy to cooperate in conducting the elections. On the other hand,the international community and donors,despite their reservations about the proposed general amnesty clause in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s founding ordinance,have promised full support for conducting the elections.

“What is the guarantee that the CA will be able to write and deliver the constitution when the political spectrum is divided so badly?” asks Shekhar Koirala of the NC. But bureaucrats-tur-ned-ministers promise they will do their best and return respectability to politics — something people hardly take seriously. The CJ is now an object of public criticism,for having “sold the independence of the judiciary” for an elective post. People’s perceptions and those of the international community and the four-party “syndicate” are now clashing.

First published on: 25-03-2013 at 03:56:13 am
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