Transitional Period Role Of Civil Society Organisations

Uttam Maharjan


The country has witnessed political instability ever since the republican system was ushered in by putting the kibosh on the monarchy about a decade ago. In the past, the monarchy used to be blamed for the pathetic state of affairs the country was in. Even most of the people used to think that it was due to the monarchy that the country could not develop on par with other countries. While doing so, they, however, forgot Japan or Great Britain.


Partisan Interests

With the abolition of monarchy, the momentum of development should have speeded up. But it is an irony that even about a decade after the monarchy was abolished, the transition period has not come to an end. During the period, elections to the jumbo Constituent Assembly were held twice, draining on the state coffers billions of rupees. Even in the transformed Legislature-Parliament, the number of lawmakers is simply superfluous. The Cabinet is  jumbo-sized.

The behaviour of the government and political parties does not commend itself to the people. This is because they are not interested in uplifting the welfare of the country and the people. They are engrossed in their own parochial and partisan interests. They tend to step into territory where their interests lie.

Further, the political parties often form opportunistic alliances whenever a time for making or breaking a government comes. Now, the CPN-Maoist Centre and the Nepali Congress have a coalition government. Before this, the CPN-Maoist Centre and the CPN-UML had a coalition government. The Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist Centre entered into an alliance while forming the present government with a bizarre stipulation that each party would lead the government for nine months, indicating that the present government is short-lived. This being the case, it is incontrovertible that the present and successive governments may not work for the good of the country and the people.

The government has a challenge before it of holding elections to the local, provincial and federal bodies by January 2018. Without these elections, the lingering transition period cannot come to an end and the republican setup will not be institutionalised. The political parties have, however, differences of opinion on the number of local units. The Local Body Restructuring Commission has done extensive homework on this. Initially, it came up with a proposal to create 565 local units. The proposal could not win the hearts of the political parties. Now it has presented another proposal mentioning the flexible number of local units ranging from 507 to 744.   

The political parties often wrangle whenever an issue comes up. This has been happening for years. In wrangling over issues, whether minor or complicated, they have squandered a lot of precious time, which could otherwise have been utilized for the development of  projects.

What with being obsessed by a desire to fulfill their parochial interests and what with wanting to have everything the way they like on the part of the political parties, the pace of development projects has remained dead slow so much so that even the projects declared as the projects of national pride have been stranded.

It is feared that with the present style of working on the part of the government and the political parties, the country may never develop. In fact, there does not seem to be any mechanism to monitor the development projects.

There are many civil society organisations in the country. They are lobbyists engaged in various aspects of society ranging from human rights violations to fostering a healthy political ambience. As the government and the political parties have assumed an attitude of nonchalance towards ending the transition period by institutionalising the republican dispensation, it is high time such civil society organisations came to the fore and act as responsible civil lobbyists.

The civil society organisations have greater outreach. They can reach where the government cannot. They have great influence which can push the government to accomplish their pending work. In the present context, the most pressing work before the government is to end the transition period which has been continuing ad nauseam and institutionalise the republican system.

The government and the political parties seem to be dragging their feet as far as the question of holding the three-tier elections is concerned. In fact, there are some problems in transitioning to the republican setup. The Madhesi parties, which are not satisfied with the Constitution proclaimed last year, are adamant about having the issue of demarcation settled first before going to the three-tier polls. The government, which came to power with backing from, among others, the Madhesi parties, has been dillydallying in amending the Constitution as demanded by the Madhesi parties.

The civil society organisations can also act as mediator in resolving the issue of demarcation. If need be, the help of experts can be sought. The people are tired of the transition period, which seems to be perpetual. In the present context marked by political instability, the role of civil society organisations has increased to a great extent.

Frustratingly, the presence of civil society organisations has been nowhere to be seen. It is not that they have been non-existent. It is disheartening to note that when the nation needs them most, they are still penned up in their cocoon.


Crucial Role

The civil society organisations represent the body politic, which is considered sovereign as stipulated in the Constitution. But such an important constitutional provision seems to have been sidelined at the whims of the political parties. The civil society organizations should play a crucial role in helping maintain what is stipulated in the constitution. So it is high time the civil society organisations woke up from their slumber and press the government and the political parties into action.  




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