Need Of Executive Presidency

Mukti Rijal

The government enjoying an absolute majority in the parliament is generally anticipated to deliver political stability and set a firm course for development in the country. It may be therefore that the political parties that compete and aspire to win seats adequate enough to form government appeal to the voters to give them comfortable majority in the parliament so that the fear of the toppling of the government would be averted.

In the elections held for the federal parliament last year, Nepal Communist Party that was formed through a conglomeration of the CPN- UML and CPN- Maoist had left no stone unturned to prevail and clinch commanding majority in the federal, provincial and local parliament. The party had pledged with Nepali electorate tired of political bickering and instability to give larger majority in the elections arguing that it would contribute towards ending the malaise of festering political confusion, corruption and usher in era of development in the country.
As they were less convinced of this appeal and exhortation, Nepali voters extended their overwhelming support to the communist party to establish formidable lead in the federal parliament sufficient enough to form a stronger government. As a consequence, the federal government, led by KP Oli, enjoys support of the two-third majority of the parliamentarians to assure its firm grip on the central executive authority. However, despite numerical strength and electoral legitimacy its position appears to be not very much strong, confident and firm. The absolute control and leverage it has in the federal parliament has not been reflected in the morale, performance and delivery of the government. The various factions and groups within the ruling communist party have arrayed against the government and vented their ire and anger against the executive leadership.
In fact, the parliamentary model of the government we have adopted in Nepal since 1990 has been plagued by instability and confusion as the majority NC government headed by late Girija Prasad Koirala following the parliamentary polls held in 1991had caved in due to the intraparty feuds and conflicts. For the last twenty-five years the country has been badly mauled due to the political stability 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. The parliamentary model of democracy fails to deliver political certitude and stability especially in the context like ours where parties are faction ridden and organised around patrimonial values.
This parliamentary variant of democracy suffers from the inherent institutional weaknesses and fragility that tends to cause unstable political dynamics. It is due to this reason that a stronger and critical constituency of intellectual and conscious citizens in the country sees the directly elected presidency as the appropriate solution for the intriguing political instability and fluidity producing negative ramification in the development and prosperity 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 federal constitution of the country enacted in September 2015.
The issue of the directly elected executive head was in fact abandoned when provisions for new constitution had been deliberated and finalised. It needs to be mentioned that the Maoists had advocated in those days for the directly elected president and accepted the constitution with some reservations. Accordingly, UML had put forth its stance in favour of directly elected prime minister. Not only this there was reportedly an overwhelming majority of the support from people in favour of the proposition for directly elected head of the government as indicated by the submissions and suggestions from the citizens in the constituent assembly, among others.
There was substantive majority of civil society opinion that had pitched in favour of the executive presidency. But the political parties like CPN-Maoist and UML abandoned this agenda and concurred with Nepali Congress to retain Parliamentary model of governance. 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 and convincing 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 interacted with Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai, chief of the erstwhile 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 favour of the directly elected executive president.
Dr. Bhattarai, who quit his party UCPN- Maoist and floated Naya Shakti party Nepal, had retorted that the issue has 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 stability and prosperity of the country. It was indeed the incumbent prime minister KP Sharma Oli who had backtracked on the party’s stance on the directly elected prime minister and joined hand with Nepali Congress, the traditional champion of the parliamentary model.

Political leaders are short-sighted, 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, strong executive leadership having won the direct mandate of people would have been in place. Such a government can have both electoral and performance legitimacy not only for stability but for prosperity of the country.

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