Let Us Trust The People
Yuba Nath Lamsal
It seems as though a new kind of political polarisation is in the offing. This is mainly after the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) withdrew its support to the government and decided to launch fresh protests demanding that its concerns and agenda be addressed through constitution amendment. Going one step forward, the UDMF declared that it would not participate in the local election scheduled for May 14. Instead, it says it would try to foil it if the election were held without addressing their demands.
The government has already registered the constitution amendment bill in the parliament. The bill is now property of the Legislature-Parliament, to which the UDMF is also a part. The onus now lies on the parliament in general and the political parties in particular to decide on the bill— whether to pass in its original and modified form or reject it. As the Madhesi Front is a key stakeholder, it, too, is required to play a constructive and cooperative role in getting the bill adopted by the parliament instead of just bargaining with the ruling parties. The constitutional provision requires a two-thirds majority to endorse the constitution amendment bill, which the ruling parties do not have. Support from the opposition parties especially the CPN-UML is crucial to pass the bill. The leaders of the Madhesi Front, too, know it well, but they are only blaming the government for not pushing for the passage of the amendment bill.
The decision of the Madhesi Front to withdraw their support to the government has only complicated the situation as if it was not settled in time amicably and may polarise the political parties for and against the local election. The CPN-UML and some fringe parties have declared in public that they in no way will let the constitution amendment bill pass. Similarly, one of the constituents of the ruling coalition, too, is not in favour of passing the amendment bill in its present form. Even the Madhesi Front wants modification in the bill. This clearly shows that the bill may not be passed if it was put for voting in its present form. Thus, the Madhesi Front has to either take initiative to convince the UML and other parties to support the bill or go to the local poll putting aside the constitution amendment bill.
Now date of the local election has already been announced. The Election Commission is making preparations on war footing to hold the election on the scheduled date in a free, fair and impartial manner. It is also the duty of all the political parties and general people to cooperate with the government and the Election Commission in holding the local election successfully and peacefully.
Election is the lifeblood of democracy. Local bodies are democratic institutions at the grassroots level. They are foundation of democracy. Local election is a must to let the people choose their representatives at the local level. Again the local bodies do not have elected representatives almost for 15 years for varied reasons. The declaration of the local election has indeed instilled a new and fresh enthusiasm and optimism among the people. This is because the people will enjoy and exercise their democratic right to choose their representative for running the local government.
However, the Madhesi Front is opposing the local election putting forth a demand that the constitution should be amended before holding any election. But given the constitutional provision, equation in the parliament and position of the parties on the amendment of the constitution, it is less likely that the constitution amendment bill would be passed in the parliament. In such a situation, all should make a compromise in order to create atmosphere conducive for the election. The government and the ruling parties have hinted that they are prepared to push for the constitution amendment except the issue on re-delineation of the federal provinces due to constitutional provision. They have floated the idea of constituting a high-level commission with the mandate to redraw the boundary of the provinces. This seems to be a common ground for all the forces and groups to come together and join the local election. The redrawing of the provincial boundaries and local election may go simultaneously. Once the provincial boundaries are finalised, election for provincial legislature will be held, which will pave the ground for holding the all three levels of election by January 2018.
In a democracy, the decision of majority must be respected while voice of minority, too, has to be accommodated as far as possible. But the political and electoral processes should by no means be obstructed under any pretext. People are the ultimate arbiter and they should be allowed to decide who is right and who is wrong. In a democratic system of governance, different ideologies and interest groups compete. In the course of competition, conflicts may occur among the competing forces, but such conflicts should not be allowed to turn into confrontation. Obstinacy only leads to confrontation that may land the conflicting parties into the point of no return. Flexibility and compromise are the best way to resolve conflict and establish an amicable situation for a healthy political competition.
Nepal has already suffered a lot due to conflict and prolonged transition. We witnessed a decade-long armed conflict from 1996 to 2006 in which almost 17,000 people were killed and several others injured and disabled. Development activities came to a virtual standstill due to the conflict. However, it has been more than a decade since the peace process started back in 2006. But sustainable peace has so far not been established in the country. The promulgation of the new constitution in 2015 had been expected to end the transition and herald a new era of peace and prosperity. However, the conflict was not resolved completely as a section of people have expressed their disgruntlement and reservation about the certain provisions of the new constitution.
The Madhes-based parties launched street protests against the constitution and even blocked the Nepal-India border for five months. The blockade ended after the political parties then agreed to find an amicable way out on the demands raised by the Madhesi groups through the constitution amendment. The ruling parties have lived up to their promise and registered the constitution amendment bill in the parliament, but they alone cannot guarantee the passage of the bill. Now all the political parties are expected to sit together and find the best way to resolve this issue. Since the constitution amendment bill is the property of the parliament, the parliament has to give its decision on the bill at the earliest. The Legislature-Parliament is the sovereign body of the people's elected representatives, and its decision must be honoured by all in whatever form it is.
In a democracy, we all have the right to dissent, but the decision of majority must be honoured. If we do not honour the majority’s decision, the essence of democracy will no longer exist. Election is the best way to put forth the agenda and ideas among the people. Thus, let us trust the people and let us give the final arbiters decide the issue through their ballots.