The pendulum swings

  • Formation of provincial assemblies and govts marks devolution of power from Kathmandu

Feb 5, 2018-

The first sessions of the newly elected provincial assemblies are currently underway. They have already been held in five provinces, and will be held in the remaining two provinces over the next few days. In initial days, the provinces will conduct bureaucratic business, such as passing rules of procedures and electing chief ministers and speakers. 

There will likely be a great deal of confusion during the early days of the formation of the provincial assemblies and governments. They still lack proper infrastructure and resources and they will doubtless have difficulties in selecting permanent capitals. At least initially, all of the business conducted by provincial assemblies and governments will seem humdrum and administrative in nature. There will doubtless be criticisms that they have not been able to function as effectively as envisaged. 

Nonetheless, the confusions of the initial days should not obscure the fact that the formation of provincial governments is a momentous event in Nepal’s history, which will have far-reaching consequences on the future course of our country.

After all, formation of provincial assemblies and governments is meant to devolve power from Kathmandu. It is intended to ensure that the people of all provinces will have the right to govern themselves and determine their own policies. Granted, in the initial stages they will be held back psychologically.

There is also a tendency among Nepal’s political parties to abide by informal rules that promote a strict hierarchy. Party bosses enjoy inordinate power in this system and this will likely continue for some time. The fact that the left alliance holds power in six out of seven provinces, as well as controls the federal government, will help the alliance’s hold on the new federal structure.

As noteworthy is that the two parties in the alliance are both communist and have centralised decision-making systems. This means it will be difficult for chief ministers and legislative assembly members from these parties to ignore their leaders. 

Over time, however, these mental shackles will be overthrown. Once they start exercising power, provincial governments and assemblies will realise that the constitution allows them a great deal of autonomy.

Eventually, provincial leaders and central politicians will probably achieve a more equal relationship to each other, not simply one of command and subordination. No doubt, the path towards achieving such a state of affairs will be protracted and difficult. There will be conflicts between the federal government and the provincial governments and even between the provincial and the local governments. 

But we hope that such conflicts will eventually lead to a reordering of the political system so that Nepal becomes a society where power is distributed justly, where people have the power and autonomy to determine their own futures. Keeping the long-term trend in view, this week--when many provincial assemblies are gathering for the first time--marks a fundamental shift in Nepali politics. And for this reason, a degree of celebration is called for. 

Published: 05-02-2018 08:34

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