Balance of power

  • As much as a stable government, strong opposition is vital for democracy

Jan 22, 2018-Six long weeks after the elections to the provincial assemblies and the federal parliament, the Nepali Congress last week allowed its central working committee (CWC) to discuss what led to its debacle. Yet it was more an angry outburst, rather than a sustained debate. The party’s former general secretary Prakash Man Singh had issues with the way party President Sher Bahadur Deuba was running the party without larger consultations; Deuba had also warned Singh of ‘disciplinary action’ if he spoke publicly against him. 

Unsurprisingly, the party president came under fire from other leaders too. Gagan Thapa urged the First Generation leaders to “take rest from active politics” and play the role of guardians to let the younger leaders take charge. In an interview this week, another senior, Shekhar Koirala, has offered a number of reasons that led to the party’s poor electoral showing. Koirala said that the party’s top leadership should take the lion’s share of the blame.    

Still, the fact that the NC, whose leaders never tire of extolling their party’s democratic history, took such a long time to officially discuss the election results aptly demonstrates how resistant its leaders, not least Deuba himself, are to the idea of change. Yet the writing was on the wall for a long time, for the party had seen the CPN-UML vault to pole position in the local elections.

By all accounts, Deuba and those shielding him from intra-party criticism will do all they can to stick to the status quo. And by all accounts, the party of BP Koirala will yet again have its history to extol and not offer its vision for future.

We do understand parties come and parties go, as the political history of various democratic countries shows. The rise and fall of parties after all represent the political tide and the prevalent political narratives in a society. And that political evolution is a natural, indeed useful, process in the evolution of a new polity.

Still, our concern for the Nepali Congress at this point in history stems not from any partisan interest but for the larger health of Nepali democracy. A strong opposition offers a better check and balance than a divided and weak one. 

It is important to put the election results in perspective here. If all goes well, the left alliance is all set to form governments in the six of the seven provinces, that it will also form the government at the Centre. And such a government, in all likelihood, will be headed by CPN-UML Chairman KP Oli. In all likelihood, the left alliance will also hold two other important positions-the Presidency and the Speakership of the federal parliament. Both of these positions will be crucial during the ongoing political transition. This after all is the first time Nepal has held three-tier elections and the three-tier federal structure is still to take shape. 

As we have seen during the current transition, when the President needlessly delayed the ordinance for the elections to the upper house, she was rightly rebuked by the ruling Nepali Congress. Now as the Prime Minister continues to dither over the transfer of power after the election loss, he has been asked by the President to speed up the process. 

Published: 22-01-2018 07:34

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