A ray of hope

A flicker of hope has emerged in Nepal’s rather gloomy political arena. The country’s feuding political parties have finally agreed on Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi heading a government that will hold fresh elections to the Constituent Assembly.

Since the end of the term of the Constituent Assembly eight months ago, Nepal’s parties have been locked in a stalemate over how to proceed forward. The opposition Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist were opposed to fresh elections to the Constituent Assembly being held under a government headed by the Maoist. Despite President Ram Baran Yadav repeatedly issuing deadlines for parties to form a government of national unity, Nepal’s politicians were unable to put aside their differences.Underlying this inability is the deep distrust that defines their perception of each other. The consensus they have reached over an election government headed by Regmi is therefore no small achievement. But given Nepal’s tempestuous politics it is a matter of time before its politicians accuse the election government of favouring one party or another. This confrontationist approach must end. Parties must understand that the consensus reached paves the way for fresh elections. It is a means to an end, the end being the task of writing a constitution. The question who should head the election government has dominated political discourse in Nepal for the last eight months, overshadowing the larger issue of writing a constitution. They must allow the election to take place immediately.

Clearly it is too early to celebrate. Nepal has many hurdles to overcome before its fledgling democracy can be jumpstarted. Parties are divided today on the question of whether Nepal should remain unitary or usher in a federal framework. Of the three major parties, only the Maoists remain committed to a federal and inclusive Constitution. The others appear to have forgotten that they had agreed in 2007 to including federalism in the Interim Constitution as a binding principle for the Constituent Assembly.
The consensus reached over an election government provides Nepal with an opportunity to break out of the paralysis that has gripped its polity for years. This paralysis is slowly but steadily strangling the democracy that the Nepali masses fought for in 2005-06. Nepal’s parties must work together now to breathe new life into its comatose democratic institutions and processes.

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