Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Poll without Maoists

Poll without Maoists


One of the high-ranking CPN (Maoist) leaders, Ram Bahadur Thapa (Badal), is either an astrologer par excellence or seems to have got hold of a survey of some kind as to what Nepali janata (people) want. In an interview to a Nepali daily, Thapa - projected as a frontliner among the so-called hardliners in the party - said that although the party accepted the mixed electoral system, "janata rejected it". He also had the gall to say that although the party signed the agreement on mixed electoral systems - first-past-the-post and proportional - "we did not indicate we would go for the mixed system".
Whether inadvertently or with deliberate intent, Thapa exposes the cause that has held the Nepali politics, and as a consequence, the country a hostage: Maoists' duplicity and insincerity.

What amazes me is that very few observers of current impasse - whether from political parties or civil society or even the media - have nailed the problem correctly: we are in political limbo only and only because the CPN (Maoist) has violated various agreements it has reached with the then seven-party alliance (SPA) and later with the government as well as violation of agreements it signed after joining the interim parliament and the government. Civil society keeps dishing out their own versions of causes of the problems and solutions. In all these, there is suggestion to accommodate at least one of the Maoist demands. This is a classic example of good intentions undone by bad judgment.

The whole crisis is being made to look like the one between the Maoists' insistence on realizing their two pre-conditions - declaration of republic by the interim parliament before the Constituent Assembly poll and adopting fully proportional electoral system for the CA - and Nepali Congress' refusal to accede to the demands. This is a flawed, and if I may add, biased assessment.

Shouldn't the CPN (Maoist) be held accountable to the agreements they have signed? We are either keeping silent on Maoists' brazen breach of pacts, or are trying very hard to 'explain' the Maoists' 'compulsions'. In either case, we become accomplice in their designs. What is worse, we encourage them to keep violating the pledges and pacts. They know they can get away with it as they have been doing so far.

It would be handy to keep in mind that some mid-ranking - among them at least one Maoist commander - and a few senior leaders have said over time that election that does not ensure victory of revolutionaries (Maoists) cannot be a meaningful one.

The Maoists have not only been violating the agreements that are part of the peace process, their cadres have also not yet stopped their beatings, intimidation and terrorizing of people, members/leaders of other political parties and government officials. Their cadres abduct journalists (at least the whereabouts of the two is still unknown). Unfortunately, both the government and the civil society have failed to nail the Maoists on these scores by failing to do what was expected of them.

Now the party's top leaders have been busy planting seeds for future conditions. One of such seeds is their assertion that they don't want "Bihari-style" republic. None of them has cared to explain what they mean by "Bihari" republic. Bihar may be a state known largely for its lawlessness but let us not forget that the state's strongman, Laloo Prasad Yadav, and his party were dislodged from power in the last election. By the way, our own comrades fare no better when it comes to adhering to norms and the rule of law. Here the CPN (Maoist) is creating hurdles to hold the CA poll and this is where we need to focus our energy at present.

Fears that the Maoists will come out with another set of conditions to thwart the CA election are not unfounded. Do the Maoists want the election to happen? This is a question that the CPN (Maoist) has to answer, and not through press releases but through their actions. We have had reports of divisions between the 'hardliners' and those supposedly espousing sticking to agreed pacts. Whether the division within the party ranks may be real or deliberately projected, what we have to bear in mind is that the party is still one and its policies are harming the entire peace process.

The other parties must now confront and explore a difficult choice: that of holding the election without the Maoists. If at all the Maoists want an election - currently all indications are that they don't want - they will have to demonstrate it. If not, we have to think of the alternative. We simply can't allow the current impasse to linger on. The CPN (Maoist) has been sitting smug because it is confident that the other parties cannot risk jeopardizing the peace process by ignoring them and by going to election without the Maoists' participation.

Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to tell the Maoists that they have gone too far this time and that the country can hold the poll even without them. Other parties have a responsibility to ensure that the people have a shot at choosing their representatives to draw a new constitution. After all, parties are accountable to people. Most certainly the Maoists will try to disrupt the poll. I think we have laws to deal with those who create disturbances. If laws are inadequate, the interim parliament can enact a few. But let us stop remaining hostage to Maoists' blackmailing.

Contrary to what one Maoist apologist wrote recently, the ball is not in the NC's court. The ball as well as the goal-posts have been seized by the CPN (Maoist). If they refuse to play as per already agreed rules, we need to have another set of ball and goal-posts. If the Maoists want to join the game at some stage before while there is still time, they are welcome. But the game has to be played, with or without them. The onus lies with the Maoists. In the meantime, let us start working towards giving people their right to choose and decide.


Rise of new authoritarianism

By Sarita Giri

We agree to disagree to postpone the CA election." "Down with the Jana Andolan II and down with democracy."
Perhaps the combination of the above statements explains the present political deadlock and the fact that the election has been cancelled for an indefinite period. The event has not surprised many of us, who have been watching the peace process very closely to learn how a traditionally authoritarian and feudalistic society fails or succeeds in its struggles to emerge from the old system.

After the Jana Andolan II, in which the common people defeated the forces of authoritarianism, the reign of power came into the hands of the political parties. The parties, as the major architects of the peace process, wanted to have the election very soon and that did not seem sincere and practical. A very large number of people were not convinced by parties' talks of democratization and democracy due to their handling of the peace process.

It was nearly impossible to believe that a war stricken country and its aggrieved people will be ready for the election so soon. The thought kept creeping in that the political parties are designing the peace process to take the people for their ride. Thus it is not surprising that the political parties have failed in their design as the election has been cancelled twice so far.

The phenomenon has bluntly revealed the lacuna of the peace process. And now the people are being confronted with new form of authoritarianism. Ironically, the new authoritarianism is embodied by the same political parties who led the Jana Andolan II.

Authoritarianism means a government that has the power to govern without consent of those being governed. The present government has lost the consent of the people as it has eroded the mandate of Jana Andolan. The government has increasingly become unpopular and illegitimate as different groups of people representing more than seventy percent of the population are engaged in insurgency or other forms of rebellious activities. The law and order situation is not under the control of the government. Killing, theft, abduction, road accidents and other forms of disorder have become the order of the day.

The country has experienced sectarian violence and communal madness for several times in recent months and the state has acted more as a spectator than the protector.

The burdensomely large interim parliament has functioned more as the tool of the seven parties than as the architect and protector of the peace process. It will be interesting now to see how this colossal parliament saves the interim constitution from collapsing. We should not forget that nearly two hundred and five members of this parliament were the members of the very parliament, which contributed in obvious ways to the collapse of 1990 constitution.

The interim constitution has already been violated by the executive and the Election Commission (EC) by defending or covering the unconstitutional act of the Executive and the EC, the parliament will prove itself to be the next authoritarian institution.

Knowing the old traditions, one can believe that the parliamentarians will not stand against the executive. They would defend the failings of the parties in the parliament. Many of them already have whip from their parties. The question here arises: Was there really a need of such a huge interim parliament?

The parliament is probably created to legitimize the parties ruling than to protect the interim constitution and the peace process. The party leaders by having almost all political voices of Jana Andolan II in the parliament have eliminated the possibility of critical and dissenting political voices from outside. If the interim constitution fails with the complicity of the parliamentarians of the seven parties, then situation will become precarious. The country will plunge into a deeper crisis for seemingly long period as the new political voices and forces will take time in emerging and gaining acceptability.

The Maoist proposal is a test of whether the parties are capable of politics of consensus and compromise. A party or alliance of parties may win in the voting but that will be redundant if the parties will not be able to govern the country beyond the tiny world of the parliament. The fact of the day is that the country is increasingly becoming ungovernable as the chasm between the existing institutions and the ground reality is rapidly widening. This reminds us of the circumstances in 2002 when the king imposed his authoritarian rule.

The parliament will ultimately become authoritarian if it fails in securing the constitutional order to lead the peace process to conclusion. The cabinet, without getting the constitution amended, has caused the election to be cancelled for an indefinite period through the EC. As a student of politics, I was not hoping that the EC would take the drastic decision of canceling the election going beyond the constitutional parameters.

By doing so the EC has totally eliminated the chances of an early consensus for the election in the parliament and has made confrontation and uncertainty inevitable. The EC should have waited for the special session of the parliament before finally canceling the election. By not doing so, the EC has played into the hands of the executive. The cabinet to save itself from embarrassment in the face of the Maoist proposal preferred cancellation of the election through the EC. And the constitution is the casualty.

The move of the cabinet and the EC is dangerous as according to the interim constitution, the Supreme Court cannot look into the matters of election.

The only institution which can now look into the legality of the acts of the cabinet and the EC is the parliament. Will the parliamentarians bring impeachment proposals against the prime minister and the election commissioner for violating the interim constitution?

The parliamentarians, by failing to do so, will act as the stooge of the executive and will help perpetuate the newest form of authoritarianism in Nepal.

[The writer is spokesperson of the splinter group of Nepal

Sadbhawana Party (A)]

(source: both articles are published and taken from http://kantipuronline.com)

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