Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal?

Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal?
Prakash Bom

The primary objective of declaring Nepal 'Federal Democratic Republic' as per the mandate proclaimed upon 'People's Movement II' can not just be boiled down to the abolition of the institution of the feudal Hindu monarchy. But the fundamental demand of proclamation is to initiate the process of transformations of its entire establishments. Transformations thus imply restructuring the state that can have all inclusive 'people' representations. Transformations have therefore become necessity without which people's demand for their right to self-governance cannot be fulfilled. Implementation of transformations thus is inevitable.

Make no mistake that people are going to keep quiet because the republic setup has been constitutionally guaranteed. Simply, people can stand no political power above themselves who (persons) or which (political parties) illegitimately over indulging national recourses. In republic democracy the sovereignty of the nation solely rest on people cannot just be established by declaring it in the constitution but implementing it in democratic process. Then only it is worth to mention that people are the symbol of the national unity. If not it is just a political jargon. For people to represent nation their representations must be processed in the structure that give people right to self-governance through the proportional representations.

Republic, therefore, does not mean just the absence of a hereditary based hierarchical institution of the monarchy. But republic must have people's direct impact on the formation of all branches of the government of the nation. This means democratic republic nation cannot form any branch of the government without the consensus of the people that can only be accomplished through the institutionalization of direct electoral process. Therefore, any government branch of the central (federal) or state or local government of 'Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal' cannot be formed without the direct votes of the electorates of respective constituencies. Under this republic provision all the members of both Houses of the federal democratic republic must be elected by the people. Democratic republic setup, thus, by no means can legitimate any form of nomination either arbitrary or consensus for political appointments to replace elected people's representatives.

First of all, do all political parties, their leaderships and cadres comply with these norms and principles of democratic republic? Political consensus plays a role model if it is farsighted and if it is all-inclusive, especially during a transitional political period of a nation like ours. If not, the absence of political consensus demands public awareness – movements of civil society, ethnic organizations, professionals, and so on. Ours is a feudal society where hereditarily dominated and hierarchically stratified ruling elites jump in and take over the state power illegitimately. In order to prevent such discrepancies 'Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal' must mandate the process of full electoral representations.

The question of full electoral representations in all branches of the government based on full proportional representation electoral system might be overwhelming in the beginning but in the long run it is the honest democratic establishment, which can truly transform our society. This may be literally discouraging those (hierarchically stratified ruling elites) who grab power through link of higher social stratifications, nepotism and party lobby. Therefore, the multifold conspiracy under the disguise of nationalism is inevitable to come forth from this group of people who despise federal structure and electoral process in democracy. Whatever is the consequence, the primary question is 'how in the world such a fully electoral representation system can be institutionalized in a nation that has diverse geography and diverse ethnicity?' Therefore, necessity for the federal governance structure has become predictable. The inevitability is to establish systematic federalized national union that can eliminate traditional and hierarchical feudal arbitrations in the government mechanism.

Democratic republic without federal system of governance is prone to one party or totalitarian or military dictatorship, often prompted by the false notion of nationalism. This is a historical fact that was how republican dictatorships emerged in the cold-war era of twentieth century. That's why our own autocratic monarchy lasted this far to the twenty-first century. Again, what sort of federal structure can give the people their right to self-governance as well as keep the national integrity firm are the issues that political leaderships, party-cadres, civil society leaders, leaders of the ethnic organizations, professionals, news-columnists, and Nepali think tank need honest scrutiny to find out the modality of federalism that can address our nation's diverse geography and diverse ethnicity. The truth is that Nepal cannot escape these inevitable democratic transformations without taking place in the entire nation.

Federalism so far has basically evolved with two kinds of structure - symmetric and asymmetric. In symmetric federalism all constituent states have same status and power whereas in asymmetric federalism the status and power of constituent states may vary depending up certain constituent states' geographical, ethnical and linguistic preferences. Under the asymmetric federal system even the some peculiar local constituencies can have certain preference within the states.

For example, if ethnic based federal structure (Maoist proposal) is scrutinized carefully, for instance, Magarat state that is composed of Rukum, Rolpa, Salyan, Pyuthan, Arghakhanchi, Gulmi, Baglung, Myagdi and Mustang districts Mustang district is the most peculiar of all in terms of its geographical, linguistic and cultural preferences. Such preferences of the constituencies (state or local) are established as per the geographical, cultural and linguistic necessity under the asymmetric federal structures. However, such preference of a local or a state constituency in the end is finalized by the votes of the electorates of respective constituencies even it is a constitutional decree.

In regard to Nepal the asymmetric federalism has the prospect for the structures of local constituencies. The ethnicity based states, for example, Madhesi state (under Maoists proposal) consists of all districts of Janakpur, Narayani and Lumbini that have proportional percent of other ethnic settlements from different linguistic and cultural groups. On the other hand, there can be many local constituencies in this state, which have for instance majority of Mithili or Bhojpuri cultural and linguistic group settlements. Therefore, preference becomes probable for those local constituencies, but not for the whole constituent state. As a result, these local constituencies in their school, for example, can decide to teach Mithili or Bhojpuri or Hindi besides Nepali and English language.

Therefore, no ethnic states such as Tharuwan, Newa, Magarat, Tamuwan, Tambashaling, Limbuwan or Madhesi can have state level preferences because all these states have proportional percent of other ethnic settlements. Thus these states will have to accommodate all the permanent residence of their state as bona fide citizens of the nation. If not these states will violate the civil rights and liberty under the constitution of 'Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.'

Nepal has become conglomeration of mixed ethnic settlements. This is statistical facts. Except for certain highland districts of Nepal all other districts have mixed ethnic settlements. There can be no state under the 'Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal' that has hundred percent residence of one ethnic group. However, the probability can exist for local constituencies that have over seventy percent of residence of one ethnic group of people. This change for mixed ethnic settlements has occurred all over the nation drastically in recent decades and it will continue to occur as the nation proceeds further with the democratic changes and the global economy.

Federalism primarily establishes people's right to self-governance. It means constituencies from local level to the central are governed by the elected representatives of people. There is neither the supremacy of states over the local governments nor of the central government over the states. But all have mutual existence with the competitive and cooperative network of sustainability. Federalism is system that establishes trust between citizens and their elected representations. Therefore, it is the question whether SPA leaderships trust people or not to institutionalize such a close relationships.

The necessity of federalism is to have responsible government system which representatives – legislative, executive and judiciary - are directly accountable to people of their constituencies. For example, the local government of Jumla district is formed by the elected local representatives of the constituency, if the mayor or district judge or attorney or law enforcement officer did not do the right things for the district, electorates are not going to re-elect them in next elections. Such check and balance can be established under federalism in local level. The integrity and strength of the nation under federalism rests on the structures of the local constituencies. They are foundation and infrastructure of both states and the nation as a whole.

Therefore, Nepal must define first its local constituencies based on population that is viable for running an efficient local government. A local government can consist of single constituency (particularly in highland – 'Himalayas and Trans-Himalayas') or more than one constituency (generally in lowland and cities). Nevertheless, a constituency consists of units or wards or townships that represent local government's assembly (legislative), administration (executive) and justice (court, attorney and law enforcement agency) bodies of the government. If the minimum population of a constituency is set to fifty thousands, for example, then if the population of Nepal is thirty million there will be 600 constituencies in the whole nation. Then only demarcations for the state or regional governments can be viable. It is a misconception to create state or region first without creating infrastructure of the federation.

Unlike the distorted news media reporting – "republic leading to fragmentation"; unlike partially scrutinized columnist's article published under the title "Hard facts of federalism' on the local news paper; unlike all hasty and apprehensive statements against federalism; unlike untrue accusations that federalism will disintegrate the nation; the socialist democratic evolution of Nepal cannot be set back without the 'Federal Democratic Republic' setup. It seems as if feudal elites and their pseudo scholars around the world are more afraid of federalism than the king is afraid of republic. SPA leaderships must not divert their thoughts with all these negative bombarding of irresponsible news media that publish anything that is written in grandiloquence verse of English. SPA leaderships and their cadre must have faith in federalism as the most successful form of democratic government system that can deliver the most democratic state of affairs to the people and the nation.
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