Consensus Government: A Political Chimera
Ritu Raj Subedi
The sugar-coated phrase ‘national consensus government’ has again gained currency in the political market. The CPN-Maoist Centre is forcefully trying to peddle the idea to replace the incumbent KP Sharma Oli-led government. If the grand idea of consensus government is translated into action, it will be a big feat but it is unlikely to come to fruition owing to parochial attitude of the major stakeholders. Every political party keeps itself at the centre of power-sharing when they hash out the consensus politics. Behind the smokescreen of consensus clamour, its proposers are trying to form another majority government to satisfy a cabal of power-hungry politicians. Some Maoist stalwarts, who failed to grab the plum ministerial posts in the current coalition, are desperate to bring down him and set foot in the corridors of power. There may be even big vicious design behind the rumours of government change. According to veteran communist leader Mohan Bikram Singh, the foreign expansionist forces are hell-bent on ousting the Oli-led government because of its strong nationalist stance and courage to stand up to the ‘Indian bullies and hegemony’.
Nepal is on the smooth course of stability and reconstruction following the devastation caused by the earthquake and the Indian blockade. Achieving these gains under the communist-led nationalist coalition is something hard to accept for parties on the right. So, they are exploiting the contradictions between the two big communist ruling parties and destabilise the nation. Another strong motive for the change of guards is to tear the left unity apart. The government is riding high after steering the nation through the natural and artificial calamities. If the upcoming three elections are held under it, the two big left forces are most likely to reap the benefits. This prospect has frightened some domestic and foreign elements.
The term ‘consensus’ is music to anybody’s ears. In principle, there is no one to dismiss it. But, in the realpolitik, the ideal concepts are only talked about and hardly put to the test. The nation needed the consensus government most following the Constituent Assembly elections to write the new statute but the three major parties- Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Maoist Centre- never agreed to form a consensus government. Now the situation is comparatively easier compared to the past. A minimum understanding among the major parties is enough to implement the new constitution and give momentum to the reconstruction works.
The Maoist Centre’s consorting with the opposition NC is seen with suspicion. While the Centre has been pressing for the consensus government, the NC has flatly rejected the proposal, stating that it is not interested in forming the consensus government with the participation of all major parties. It argues that the parliamentary democracy needs a strong opposition to keep a tight rein on the government if it goes freewheeling and oversteps the mark. Still, the NC’s claim of its defence of parliamentary system looks spurious as it has constantly been egging the Maoist Centre on to put the skids under the Oli government. The parliamentary democracy flourishes and sustains only when there is stability and vibrant political culture. Going against its own principles, the NC is acting as a killjoy and not playing a constructive opposition.
There are other odds that stand in the way of marriage between NC and the Maoist Centre. The then CPN-Maoist that is now renamed as the CPN-Maoist Centre raised arms to finish off parliamentary democracy. Thousands of innocent people, including political workers and leaders were killed at the altar of its ruthless insurgency. Hence, politically, their union looks impossible. However, it is likely only if both the parties vigorously move to realise a flawed political dictum - there is no permanent friends or foes in politics.
While the NC-Maoist Centre bonhomie looks improbable, the break-up of UML-Centre alliance will be fatal for the latter. Two months ago, the Centre dealt a jolt to UML by telling that it is going to pull out of the government. PM Oli managed to save the shaky coalition by forging a 9-point agreement with the strayed partner. The Centre accused the PM of betraying it by not handing over the reins of government to it in line with the gentleman agreement. Enraged by the PM’s denial of the existence of such secret oral deal, the Centre has conveyed a clear message to him: it wants to knock Oli off its perch for the sake of consensus government. They keep grumbling over the delay in the implementation of the 9-point accord in which the two sides agreed to amend the Act related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on the Enforced Disappearances within 15 days to settle the insurgency era cases. The concerned ministry also prepared an amendment draft that seeks amnesty to those involved in even serious crimes. However, the bid hit a snag after the representatives of international community- the UN, the European Union and the US- flatly spurned the amendment proposal and demanded that the Supreme Court verdicts on different conflict-related cases should not be overturned. The government attempted to muster the confidence of donor agencies so that the rights violation cases must not be dragged to foreign courts, an idea the Maoist Centre detested. And this has created a friction between the UML and the Centre.
Human Rights Regime
In the wake of the Centre’s chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s cancelled trip to Australia, the procrastination in clearing the legal hurdles to the settlement of conflict-related cases has further exasperated it. It will be naivety on the part of the Maoist Centre that its leaders and cadres will escape the indictment for cruel crimes by removing Oli and anointing another PM. It has failed to take cognizance of a simple fact- the sovereignty of national governments has been vastly dented with the increasing influence global human rights regime. Today, any politicians implicated in the war crimes and heinous rights violations risk of arrest and detention if they visit the countries that have ratified the Geneva Conventions Act of 1957. Prachanda is not alone to fear the long hand of international laws. Former US President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former US Vice President Dick Cheney do not visit some countries that are signatories to the Geneva Convention as they have been alleged to have committed killing, torture and displacement of innocent people when they were in power. Thus, it will be wrong to pin blame on the UML for delay in the execution of the 9-point agreement. If the Maoist Centre rushes headlong to withdraw from the government, its efforts to secure some leniency over war era excesses suffer a setback and will be left like shag on a rock.