So much to do

  • Madhesi parties have high hopes that this government will address their grievances

Sep 2, 2016-On the very day Prachanda stepped into the prime minister’s office, he passed a decision to pay compensation to the families of those killed and wounded during the Madhes movement. This has brought a ray of hope in the politically suffocated Madhes after the drafting of the constitution. The government received unseen support from the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) when forging the three-point deal. The agreement does not mention that the SLMM has insisted on establishing two states in the Tarai, which proves that the Madhesi parties can show maximum flexibility with regard to the number of federal provinces. These recent decisions are signs that the three-point deal made with the government may be successful. The Madhesi parties also seem to be pinning their hopes on this government that it will address their grievances.

In addition to these issues, this government has a mountain of challenges to overcome. It is well known that Nepal is currently facing many crises. Some of the major issues are implementation of the constitution, reconstruction of the houses destroyed by the mega earthquake, successful conclusion of transitional justice, improvement of foreign relations, and so forth.

On July 6, the United Nation’s human rights cell had released a statement boldly saying that they would not assist the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) until it adheres to international standards. Meanwhile, it is an open secret that all who are alleged to be human rights violators during the insurgency are trying to escape prosecution. Prachanda needs to settle the

issue by incorporating all the bodies in the same board.

By hook or crook

The implementation of the constitution is also a big challenge for the newly installed coalition government. It does not seem to be possible to amend the constitution regarding the provincial boundaries and citizenship issues without involving the CPN-UML, the second largest party in Parliament. Constitutional hurdles are linked with the completion of elections. Until amendments are made to the constitution, the SLMM will not agree to go for elections and the Tarai may continue to remain in a state of agitation. In the meantime, Prachanda has tactfully forged a three-point deal with the Madhesi parties so that he can bring them into government and compel them to go for elections. The government should play a proactive role by eliminating lingering Tarai issues.

Another major challenge for Prachanda is expediting the reconstruction of quake destroyed houses. Prachanda and Sher Bahadur Deuba will make this happen by hook or crook because the CPN-UML has cultivated the sentiments of people in the hills, which may help it during the elections. So Deuba and Prachanda may try to win favour with voters in the hilly region by speeding up the reconstruction programme.

Despite knowing that the parliamentary system has been a failure in Nepal after practicing it for decades, it has been adopted in the new constitution. It is almost impossible under this system to form a government that can last long enough to implement any plan to its completion. Governments are formed by obtaining other parties’ support because winning a majority of parliamentary seats is always challenging.

Prachanda has also formed a coalition government. In such a government, the prime minister has to balance representation among the various coalition partners by doling out cabinet and junior ministerial appointments in sufficient numbers to ensure the continuing support of all the parties in government. The prime minister often has little effective influence over who gets what ministerial role, and he may be unable to exert firm control over the direction of policy. In addition, we know that in Nepal bureaucrats who are sharply divided along party lines carry out the work of the minister. With multiple parties sharing power, the prime minister also does not have the same control over the legislative timetable, and he may even have to make executive decisions through consensus. In countries with weak prime ministers, department heads have more independent control of their ministries.

Not pro-Indian

In such a scenario, it will be difficult for Prachanda to work effectively though he has put bureaucrats under scrutiny and his tenure, which is certain to be short, is covered with pessimism. Although it is a surface-level analysis that this is going to be the last chance for Prachanda to be the ‘executivecommander’ of the country, this is the fact. Prachanda himself is very much aware of that. The entry of Ram Bahadur Thapa and some other veteran leaders in the party may explore their existence and many other factors may halt Prachanda.

First, if Prachanda wants to prove he is a true statesman, he should table an amendment bill in Parliament and garner a two-thirds majority which can be done even without the support of the CPN-UML and some other parties. This first step may create a favourable environment for the implementation of the constitution. The reconstruction programme should be expedited. Most importantly, transitional justice should be taken seriously. It should be wrapped up in a way which can satisfy all the concerned bodies. In politics, it is difficult to satisfy the maximum number of parties. Prachanda needs to maintain equilibrium when dealing with China and India. It may be a good idea to seek help from Nepal’s fast rising neighbours, and this may personally help Prachanda to prove that he is not pro-Indian.

Chaudhary is associated with the Tarai Human Rights Defenders Alliance

Published: 02-09-2016 08:35

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