Three-tier Polls Key To Institutionalise Republic
Uttam Maharjan, It has been years since the country was declared a republic after abolishing the monarchy made possible by the success of the People’s Movement of 2062/63 B.S. It took years to promulgate a new constitution compatible with the republican dispensation. The country had to form the Constituent Assembly (CA) twice for this purpose, entailing billions of rupees.
At long last, circumstances made it possible to promulgate the constitution in the aftermath of the powerful earthquake that struck the country in April 2015. At the time, it was necessary for the country to show to the world community that it was serious about the plight of the earthquake victims, and that there was no political squabble about promulgating the constitution.
The promulgation of the constitution is just one of the steps towards institutionalising the republican set-up. The republican set-up will take final shape only when the Federal Parliament, provincial assemblies and local units are in place. For this, the three-tier elections are required to be held by January 2018. The tenure of the present Legislature-Parliament expires in January 2018.
There are, however, bottlenecks here and there in the implementation of the constitution. As soon as it was promulgated, it met with strong resistance from the Madhesi parties to such an extent that the country had to face the Madhes agitation and the Indian blockade for five months. It has been almost a year since the Madhes agitation and the Indian blockade came to an end. Still, there has not been any tangible progress in the implementation of the constitution.
As things stand, an amendment bill has been tabled in the Legislature-Parliament by the ruling coalition. The Madhesi parties, which had objected to the bill in the past, has now acquiesced in the bill. However, the main opposition party, the CPN-UML, has been opposing the bill, reasoning that it is against the interests of the nation.
The Madhes-based parties are adamant about having their demands fulfilled through the amendment bill. As the bill has been tabled, they have remained assured that their demands will be fulfilled. On the other hand, the CPN-UML is trying to thwart the endorsement of the bill at any cost.
In the meantime, the ruling coalition has announced that civil polls will be held by mid-June and the parliamentary polls by mid-December. Just announcing the polls will not do the trick. A conductive environment needs to be built. Necessary electoral laws are to be in place and the Election Commission needs to be given enough time for preparation of the polls. For all this to happen, political consensus is a sine qua non.
But the country is stuck in the amendment bill. Although the constitution has already been amended to appease the Madhesi parties, they are not satisfied with it. It is bizarre that the constitution is undergoing another round of amendments before it is implemented.
Political consensus rarely takes place in the country. The political parties have their own axe to grind. They tend to blow their own trumpets. They hardly listen to other parties’ views. The same thing is happening now. The ruling coalition and the Madhesi parties are on one side, while the CPN-UML and other opposition parties are on the other. The former are in favour of having the amendment bill endorsed through the Legislature-Parliament, while the latter are diametrically opposed to it. So a situation of conflict is developing in the political circle.
In view of such a volatile situation, ex-King Gyanendra has expressed concerns about whether the country will exist or not. These existential concerns carry a grave magnitude. The political parties have not, however, taken the concerns seriously as they are embroiled in their own affairs.
Institutionalisation of the republican set-up, one of the most pressing tasks before the country, cannot be held hostage for years. The challenge lies in the political parties coming together to hold the necessary polls in time. The political parties should, therefore, think about the country, rising above their partisan interests. As the country is at a crossroads, the political parties should forge consensus and make all-out efforts at holding the elections in time.
The contentious constitutional issues can be settled after the constitution has been implemented. The issues can be settled by the local units, provincial assemblies or the Federal Parliament as the case may be. The political parties should keep in mind that the constitution is a not a rigid charter. It will have to be amended keeping abreast of the times. As the youngest republic in the world, the country may have to undergo several constitutional amendments in the course of implementing the provisions enshrined in the constitution in the future.
Not all people or parties can be pleased. The ultimate goal of the constitution should be to bring about remarkable transformations in the socio-economic conditions of the people by honestly implementing the constitutional provisions. The political parties should be serious about this and take appropriate measures to hold the elections in time lest they should lose popular confidence. As the credentials of the political parties are sagging, it is very important that they restore them by accomplishing the historic task of holding the three-tier elections that will institutionalise the republican dispensation. This is the need of the hour.