Rotational Diarchy A Mockery Of Democracy



Uttam Maharjan


The present government under the leadership of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has reportedly come into existence with an agreement with the Nepali Congress that the government will last for nine months and thereafter the reins of the government will pass to the Nepali Congress, which will then rule the country for as many months.

This goes on to show that the political parties are never serious about doing something concrete to lift the country out of the quagmire of underdevelopment. They always harbour lust for power. How to grab power even at the cost of the country and the people has been their everyday affair.


Gentlemen’s Agreement

This is not the first time that the political parties have agreed upon ruling the country on a rotational basis. The new constitution was promulgated during the premiership of Sushil Koirala. At the time, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML made a gentlemen’s agreement that the baton of the government would be handed over to the CPN-UML after the promulgation of the constitution. But the Nepali Congress flatly refused even having made such an agreement with CPN-UML. Consequently, an election for the Prime Minister had to be held, in which KP Sharma Oli became the Prime Ministers by defeating Sushil Koirala. This was possible with the support from the CPN-Maoist Centre with another gentlemen’s agreement that the reins of the government would be handed over to the CPN-Maoist Centre after the budget had been announced. When the time ripened for the CPN-UML to hand over the reins of the government, it refused to fulfill its pledge. As a result, the CPN-Maoist Centre was forced to take drastic measures and toppled the Oli-led government with  support from the Nepali Congress, Madhesi parties and some other fringe parties.        

One of the main obstacles to development in Nepal is political instability. Since the restoration of multi-party democracy in Nepal in the early 1990s, no government has managed to complete its full term. Even after the establishment of the republican dispensation through the success of the 2062/63 Popular Movement followed by the abolition of the monarchy, several governments have come and gone.

A frequent change of the guard does not bode well for an underdeveloped country like Nepal, which needs to floor the accelerator of development by building requisite infrastructure in various sectors. Almost all the sectors of the economy are in the doldrums. The reason is only too obvious. To fulfill their vested interests, the government and the political parties have deviated from what they should be doing for the sake of development. They have not paid attention to revamping the economy in tatters by accentuating industrial and other infrastructure development.

The government seems to be under the illusion that they can rule the country on the strength of tax and remittance money. It need not be reiterated that many Nepalese are working hard overseas. They are sending billions of rupees to the country every year. But the government is happy that their people are sending money home to bolster the economy. This may be one of the reasons why the government has not lifted a finger to create job opportunities in the country.

Similarly, taxation is hanging heavy on the common people. For example, levying 240 per cent tax on the import of vehicles (four-wheelers) is too much for the people to bear. The government has also been raising tax year after year. Tax is a good source of revenue for the government. Bur the rate of tax is too high.

Now the time has come for the government to look for other sources of revenue. This can be done by reducing the volume of imports and increasing the volume of exports by stressing import substitution. For this, all the sectors of the economy should be given momentum by ditching the mentality that tax and remittance money are more than enough to set the economy in motion.

One of the prerequisites for all this to happen is indubitably political stability. But the present mechanism developed by the CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress is likely to invite more political turmoil in the future. What if the CPN-Maoist Centre refuses to step down after nine months to give room for the Nepali Congress to step into the government? Will the Nepali Congress try to topple the government with support from the CPN-UML and other political parties a la the CPN-Maoist Centre? Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has already said that his government may not exit after nine months.

It seems the country is in for more political turbulence in the days ahead. Democracy does not dictate that the political parties should take turns in forming a government as if it were their fiefdom. The spoils system is already in place. Ministerial berths are distributed among the leaders of various political parties as per the system. If need be, even a ministry is split into two to induct more and more leaders as ministers. As such, forming a jumbo cabinet has been a normal phenomenon.


Turn System

All this proves the fact that the political leaders are highly obsessed with grabbing power by hook or by crook. Further, as its tenure is numbered, the government may not deem it necessary that the pressing tasks such as reconstruction, rehabilitation and holding local, provincial and federal elections should be accomplished at any cost. After all, another government will come into power in nine months, time. On the other hand, the next government to be helmed by the Nepali Congress may say that the previous government has not prepared the required groundwork, so it cannot be held responsible for the non-accomplishment of the tasks supposed to be accomplished for the benefit of the country and the people. 

The mechanism for ruling the country turn by turn is highly undemocratic. It pillories the democratic norms, values and tenets. It is a mockery of democracy, to say the least. The present mechanism may be termed a ‘rotational diarchy’, in which only two parties agree to rule the country by turns. Such a system may further degenerate into a pervert system, pushing the country to the precipice of further underdevelopment. So it would be in the interests of the country and the people to make a bonfire of such a system right away. 


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