Thursday, January 3, 2008

Federalism & National Integrity in Nepal

Federalism & National Integrity in Nepal
Prakash Bom
Federalism generally implies federation comprising a member of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central "federal" government. However, in the government level the self-governing status of the component states or regions is constitutionally established and no unilateral decision of the central government can alter it. Primarily, state or regional governments must consist of a unit of partially self-governing local governments in which people have constitutional right to govern their own constituencies. It is the partially self-governing local level of governments that play vital role for the stability, prosperity and national integrity of a federal democratic nation.

It is said that Mahatma Gandhi had deeply regretted with the constitutional provision of federal republic Indian because it has excluded the primary structures of federalism that could have set the system for local people to govern their constituencies with their constitutional rights. It was forced by the ruling elites who could not trust people capable of governing their local constituencies. Therefore, Indian federalism gives all power to the state government and to the chief minister to run the whole state affairs. If Nepal without scrutiny adopts Indian model of federalism then Nepali people will be deprived of their constitutional rights for governing their own constituencies.

On the contrary, there is no such a federalism, which has states or regions with full self-governing or full autonomy status. If there is then what is the purpose of institutionalizing federal democratic republic? In that case, such a state if it is rebelling for independent then should become independent nation. Constitutionally, just as central or "federal" government cannot alter the partially self-governing or self-autonomy status of states or regions with even unilateral decision so as the states or regions cannot alter partially self-governing or self-autonomy status of the local units of governments. Constitutional compliance of the central and state or regional governments establishes the right to partial self-governance or self-autonomy of the state and local governments. Therefore, as long as federal democratic republic exists in the nation this constitutional provision cannot be amended.

A parliamentary federal democratic republic nation's federal government consists of the Parliament with both Houses. Therefore, federal Parliament can only make amendments of the constitution. The state and local governments have legislative assembly, which under the provisions of the constitution legislate policies and regulations for their state and local governments. But state and local governments do not have their separate constitution. They must comply with the federal democratic republic constitution of the nation.

For example, under the constitution of the United States if any undocumented human alien has been living in the country the police cannot issue ticket for his or her arrest unless he or she has allegedly committed crime. But under the federal immigration law undocumented are considered illegal immigrants. However, it is up to the state or local governments to implement federal regulation. Therefore, there are many states and local government like New York City, which have given protection to undocumented immigrants. Some mayors of New Jersey local governments have welcomed undocumented immigrants if they comply with the rule and regulations of the local government and pay the taxes. These are the examples of implementing the provisions of the partial self-governance or self-autonomy of state and local governments under the federal constitution.

Under the other provision of the federal democratic republic constitution states and local governments must have electoral institutional establishments for the right to self-governance or self-autonomy. A centrally or stately nominated legislative, executive and judiciary bodies are not legitimate to have right to self-governance. Therefore, members of state legislative, executive and judiciary must be elected from respective constituencies of the state. This means assembly members of the state must be elected. The executive head (governor) must be elected to form the state cabinet. State judges, attorneys, and law enforcement officers also must be elected from among the professionals of the state.

Similarly, local governments are illegitimate without the electoral institutional establishment. The assembly members must be elected; the local government head (mayor) must be elected to form the cabinet; local (district) judges, attorneys and law enforcement officers must be elected. Electoral representation is one the mandate of the constitutional right to self-governance. All feudal political tradition of nominations must be terminated. Therefore, through the electoral competition electorates of all constituencies must have constitutional right to choose their representatives who are capable to oversee bodies (legislative, executive & judiciary) of their governments.

It is very important to understand the rational of the federalism regarding its self-governance provision for units of the governments. Particularly, those political parties and organizations, which are resurrecting federalism with the demand for full self-governance or self-autonomy, must comply with the basic principles of federalism. Similarly, SPA leaderships must respect the fundamentals of federal democratic republic. By just declaring it does not mean it has the structures of governance. Political leaderships and their cadres must have to work hard to create such a new structures that is off of our socio-political mindset. It is therefore unfamiliar and intellectually overwhelming. But if any political leader or professional elite out of his or her own unwillingness calls federalism a wrong governance system for Nepal then it is irresponsible statement. We must not disrespect our own consensus for the federal democratic republic declaration.

We must therefore consider our nations' diverse geographical and diverse ethnicity. Federalism is a national necessity not only for the sake of diverse ethnicities but also for all electorates of Nepal to have their right to self-governance in their constituencies. This means annihilation of the easy and merry-go feudal politics that indulge nominating and appointing tradition of ruling elites. Also, gradual abolition of 'First Past the Post' electoral system is must for the electoral system of the federal democratic republic of Nepal. This is essential to adopt "Proportional Representation" electoral system for the inclusiveness of diverse ethnicity representations for the self-governance participations in all state and local governments.

The federal democratic republic constitution of Nepal thus must establish the rights and duties of its partially self-governing units of the governments. One of the basic 'self-governance' rights of the local governments is to conduct elections to form their bodies of the governments. Local governments under federalism are fully responsible for their local administration, law enforcement, justice, developments, infrastructure maintenance, school management, local tax and revenue regulations and so on. Except for policymaking, funding and overall state infrastructure development the state has no control over the local governments' right to self-governance.

Any state proposal that attempts to disrupt the national integrity must require the political consensus of all local governments in that state under the federal democratic republic constitution of Nepal. Therefore, the self-sustainable self-governing local governments' fundamental constitution right is to protect the national integrity if the state leaderships tried to betray the nation. In a nation like ours', which has diverse geography and ethnicity, it is mandatory to make local governments in the grass-root level self-sustainable with their constitutional right to self-governance. That's the structure in the future Nepal can guarantee and secure the national integrity of the nation.

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