Democracy, Nepali-style

  • Leaders are happily reneging on their grand promises to the Nepali people
Democracy, Nepali-style

Sep 28, 2014-

Although the political parties agreed to extend the deadline by which they are supposed to reach agreement on contentious issues in the new constitution, the state of negotiations at the moment is far from inspiring. The parties have yet to enter into serious deliberations—and compromises—on any major issue, such as form of governance or federalism. This leads to doubt whether the parties do in fact intend to try and resolve their differences on these issues anytime in the near future. Nonetheless, the parties have been resolving some of the less contentious issues. Unfortunately, the kinds of agreements that are being reached do not inspire much confidence that the new constitution will lead to the development of a free and democratic country.

For example, the parties have decided to include a provision in the constitution that enables citizenship to be transferred to children only from male parents. Women are not eligible to pass down citizenship to their children. This means that the children of single women or women married to foreigners will be essentially stateless. This provision means that Nepal is one among only 27 countries in the world that do not allow citizenship to be transferred from mothers to children. Other countries with similar laws include Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Somalia—countries that are known for being extremely conservative and repressive. It is shameful that a Constituent Assembly (CA) that was formed with the promise of radical and transformative change has decided to adopt such a regressive provision. It is also shameful that the chair of the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (PDCC), Baburam Bhattarai, who has claimed to be in favour of equal rights for women, seems to have accepted this provision. The politicians in the PDCC have some careful thinking to do. They still have time to amend this backward and discriminatory provision from the draft constitution.

In addition, another recent provision that the parties have agreed upon, which brings all constitutional bodies under the purview of the Parliament, is highly problematic. This is in fact a blatantly self-serving provision on the part of our lawmakers. For, there seems to be no other intention behind it other than to ensure that constitutional bodies remain under the control of politicians. This flouts the very reason why constitutional bodies exist in the first place. The current constitution envisages that constitutional bodies will remain autonomous so that they can monitor the behaviour of the political class and prevent them from abusing their power. Constitutional bodies are already highly politicised in Nepal. The provision to bring them under the purview of the Parliament will politicise them even further. This can only lead to a further erosion of the institutions of democracy. For this reason, the parties should rethink this provision. By all indication, the parties seem headed to an abyss on two counts: one, they are unable to find a common ground on long-festering issues—federalism and form of government and two, since the November elections they seem to be moving on reverse gear on fundamentals that define an evolving democracy.

Published: 29-09-2014 09:05

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