Plea For Executive Presidency

 

Mukti Rijal

 

 

Nepal Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) recently passed a resolution clearly articulating its position in favour of the presidential form of government that vouchsafes for the directly elected president in the country.

Sharing the decisions of the extended party meeting held in the capital to review the party’s performance in the local level elections last week party chairman and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda vowed to relentlessly pursue the agenda of the directly elected executive presidency, as according to him, the presidential form of the government was needed to mitigate the festering problem of the political instability in the country.

 

Political instability

 Needless to say,   the country has been badly mauled due to the political instability marked by the frequent change of the government. The change in the set of the executive chief and ministers in less than a year time for the last several years and decades has yielded adverse impacts in political, social and economic development of the country. There has also been a stronger and critical constituency of intellectual and conscious citizens in the country that sees the directly elected presidency as the appropriate solution to the intriguing political instability and fluidity producing negative ramification in the development of the country.

But the opportunistic and compromising tendencies of the political leaders failed the agenda of the executive presidency allowing room for parliamentary model to secure an important place in the constitution of the country.  The issue of the directly elected executive head was abandoned only during the time of promulgation of the new constitution in September 2015.

As the Constitution has already given continuity to the parliamentary model, the discussion on the mode and modality of the form of the government – parliamentary or presidential – may not make much sense and impress political actors and stakeholders.

It needs to be mentioned that the Maoists had advocated for the directly elected president and accepted the Constitution with some reservations. Accordingly, the CPN (UML) had put forth its stance in favour of directly elected prime minister. Not only this  there was reportedly  an overwhelming support from  people  in favour of the  proposition for the directly elected head of the government as indicated by the submissions and suggestions from the citizens  in the Constituent Assembly, among others .

There was a substantive majority of civil society opinion that was vented in favour of the executive presidency. But the political parties like the Maoists and the UML abandoned this agenda and concurred with the Nepali Congress on the parliamentary model. The parties had thus missed the opportunity to give the historic turn to the polity of the country. 

In fact, as reported, when the political parties had been locked in the debate to choose the form of the government, there was a possibility of agreement among the political stakeholders on the presidential model of the government had its votaries and advocates made a needed push for it in an arduous manner. But they compromised on this very vital agenda and lent their support to the continuity of the parliamentary model.

When the political leaders were nearing the finalisation of the Constitution, this writer had talked to Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, chief of the Constituent Assembly Committee mandated to facilitate political consensus  on the contentious constitutional issues. This writer had made a plea with him not to give up the long-held stance for the directly elected executive president. Dr. Bhattarai who quit his party UCPN (Maoist) and floated the new political party Naya Shakti Nepal seemed not very serious and had retorted that the issue had already been  resolved in favour of the parliamentary model.

These days Dr. Bhattarai talks of the importance of the presidential model and commits to fight for it for securing stability and prosperity of the country. But ranting the empty talks about the need for presidential model at this time may not gather much support when not much emphasis was laid in the pursuit of the presidential model when the country was writing the new federal Constitution, and there are clearer opportunities to argue, propose and persuade to incorporate    provision in the new Constitution.

It was indeed CPN-UML chair and former prime minister KP Sharma Oli who had backtracked on the party’s stance on the directly elected prime minister and joined in hand with the Nepali Congress-the traditional champion of the parliamentary model- to surrender the important agenda on the pretence of negotiation and settlement.

Political leaders are shortsighted, and therefore tend to make compromise on principles for short-term gains and benefits at the expense of long-term political goal. Had the leaders agreed on the presidential model through negotiation and accorded a space in the Constitution, political stability would have been achieved, which is a much needed precondition for the socio-economic development of the country. Now whining for the political stability is like crying over the spilt milk since the opportunity for opting to it through constitutional provision has been grossly missed. It may take decades before the parties like NC recognised the rationale and importance of the institution as executive presidency for political stability and development.

 

Relevance

 Needless  to say, the average life span of  a government is not more than a year for the last several  years,  and the latest casualties have  been  the governments  headed by UML leader KP Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as they had to quit in shorter duration of the government headed by them.  This country will most probably go through the nasty experience of political bickering, moral bankruptcy and socio-economic stagnation for longer time before the relevance and importance of the directly elected prime minister or president to check the moral and political disaster is recognised.

 

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