POLITICS: Destination Stability

Although Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist together have secured a thumping two thirds majority in the recently concluded election to the Constituent Assembly, they are no guarantee to political stability and constitution writing

Nov. 30, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 07 No. -11 Nov. 29- 2013 (Mangsir 14, 2070)

Although Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist together have secured a thumping two thirds majority in the recently concluded election to the Constituent Assembly, they are no guarantee to political stability and constitution writing. After meeting his arch rival CPN-Maoist leader Mohan Vaidya, UCPN-Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal has indicated that he can go to any extent against the current verdict. Similarly, the formation of the new government is going to be more difficult in a hung parliament as Nepali Congress and CPN-UML are both claiming to lead the next government. The confusion will put the country back in its course of prolonged political instability

Despite securing two thirds of vote together, three major political parties, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist are yet to inject a sense of political stability and guarantee to promulgate the new constitution in time.

The November elections were held to establish a legitimate and accountable government, accelerate economic growth and draft the new constitution as per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between Maoists and the then seven-party alliance.

Given the current political actions and reactions, there is a long way to go for the parties to achieve these goals. Although Nepal gets a strong international support and backing for the election, the country has yet to form a stable domestic political alliance. "Nepal needs to write the new constitution to guarantee stability in the country. Nepalese have shown that they can hold free and fair elections," said former US president Jimmy Carter who observe the CA elections leading Carter Center.

As the vote counting for the FPTP has already completed and the Election Commission is making its best efforts to count all PR votes soon, Nepal's three major political parties, which promised to give stability and constitution, are yet to come together.

Although UCPN-Maoist leaders, who issued a statement at midnight of November 20 to take any hostile action, are gradually softening their stand, they continue to threaten destabilizing the political process, and not to participate in the coming CA without fulfilling their four demands.

After facing a humiliating defeat in the election, UCPN-Maoist leaders used all kinds of loaded words to criticize the two major political parties and Election Commission. UCPN-Maoist leaders even met their arch rival and CPN-Maoist leader Mohan Vaidya and called for a broader alliance against the current verdict.

UCPN-Maoist chairman Prachanda and Dr. Babauram Bhattarai and Narayankazi Shrestha met a CPN-Maoist team led by Mohan Vaidya Kiran, Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal and Dev Gurung, asking them to join hands against the conspirators.

Although both sides discussed and shared their views, they are yet to make any agreement to form a joint front to launch such agitation. "It was just an informal meeting. There is no question to form a joint struggle as long as UCPN-Maoist does not publicly confess its mistakes about participating in the elections and giving up the stand taken in the People's War," Dev Gurung, who was also involved in the meeting, told New Spotlight.

Having enjoyed power for the last three years, taking stands on national and international issues, UCPN-Maoist has already had the much-needed exposure in the international arena. Given the present political scenario, it has a very limited chance to go out of politics. Their second statement issued on (Monday 22, November) has completely contradicted to their earlier statement of November 20. Along with growing national and international pressure, UCPN-Maoist leaders are heaving a sigh of relief to see voters in favor of them under proportional representation.   

"The Constituent Assembly is our baby and there is no question to give it up. If Nepali Congress and CPN-UML agree to fulfill our four demands, we will join it," Agni Prasad Sapkota, spokesperson of CPN-UML told New Spotlight.  Our condition includes: give place in constitution making process to those political parties which boycotted the elections and amend the constitution to make it consensus based. If there is no hope to write people oriented constitution, there is no sense to join the CA."

Under the UCPN-Maoist leadership, 10 parties which suffered badly in the elections even demanded High Level Independent Investigation Commission to investigate incidents of rigging in the recently concluded elections. 

The people voted for the country's major parties by ignoring the threat of bombs and hoping to see stability and new constitution for the country. All their hopes dashed when UCPN-Maoist decided to pull back its representatives from counting venues accusing fraud in the elections and forged alliance with hostile forces.  

When the common people went to vote, they expected the new Constituent Assembly to bring stability and new constitution and economic prosperity. The people gave over two thirds to Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN Maoist, which claims to be a messiah of the New Federal Democratic Republic.

In the last CA elections, people voted UCPN-Maoist as the largest party, with two thirds of vote to the CPN-UML, Nepali Congress and Madheshi front combine. Although RPP-Nepal failed to secure any seat in first past post system, the party is following Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist in the proportional category.  RPP-Nepal even secured the second highest vote in Kathmandu's ten constituencies.

Out of 121 parties, which contested the elections 2013, nine political parties secured their positions in the first past the post system. Nepali Congress secured 105, CPN-UML 91, UCPN Maoist 26, RPP 3, Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic) 4, Terai Madhesh Lokatatrik Party 4, Madheshi Janadhikar Forum 2, Sadbhvana Party 1, Terai Madhesh Sadbhbana Party 1, Nepal Majdoor Kishan Party 1 and Independent 2.

New Equation

Now new equations and new political fronts are emerging. RPP-Nepal has shown as a major forces securing forth positions. Nothing is likely to fulfill what the people have been aspiring for a long time. Although Nepal has seen a relative peace and drastically lowered number of killing after the elections of 2008, what Nepal did not find was a stable government and the promised new constitution. Given the present scenario, these still seem to be elusive.

Nepalese people have seen many political equations and sacrificed everything for the sake of stability. In the last few decades, Nepal has turned from monarchy to republic, from a Hindu kingdom to a secular state, from unitary nation to a federal country. However, nothing has addressed the people's aspirations. With the voter turnout of over 70 percent, the second election to the CA is likely to end in a similar state as all its predecessors given Nepal's last five decades of experience.    

UCPN-Maoist and other regional fringe parties have already formed alliances to oppose the second CA poll results. Termed as one of the most fair and free polls ever held in Nepal by international and national observer groups, the results of the second CA polls landed in controversy following the withdrawal by UCPN-Maoist and some regional based parties from vote counting.

UCPN-Maoist Strategy

After announcing to pull out their representatives from vote counting at midnight of November 20 accusing massive rigging in the elections, UCPN-Maoist is yet to formulate its strategy. The first meeting of the politburo directed the leadership to engage in broader alliance with like-minded parties and forces. Similarly, the meeting also directed the party to organize protest programs nationwide and organize awareness campaigns against elections fraud in all 240 constituencies.

As the UCPN-Maoist leaders are under growing pressure, the party is likely to launch street agitations.  However, UCPN-Maoist does not have many choices other than to pursue the peaceful politics in view of the intense international pressure. UCPN-Maoist is likely to organize some kind of political protests to pacify its workers. But, it is unlikely to continue such kinds of acts for a long time to come.  Once Maoists organize the protest, it is likely that there will be political polarization among the forces which have lost the elections.

Government Formation

After the completion of the counting of votes, the most difficult challenge will be to form a new government. As there is no possibility of a clear majority for any major political party, the formation of a coalition government is most likely. Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have already started calculations about the formation of the new government. Since the Maoists will also have a formidable strength in the coming CA, with 80 seats, it will be in a position to play Nepali Congress and CPN-UML in the process of making the new government.

International Support

Along with Nepalese voters, the international community, India, China, U.S, Germany, Japan & EU and United Nations have hailed the CA polls and its results as a great success. Their goodwill, however, may not pursue Nepal's political actors to provide stability.

Along with Nepal’s two neighbors India and China, the United States of America, European Union, Japan and UN thanked the government, Election Commission and Nepali people for conducting free and fair elections.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said, “The successful conduct of free and fair elections … in Nepal for the Constituent Assembly-cum-Parliament is an important step towards realizing Nepal's goal of a democratic and prosperous future. The people of Nepal, political parties, government and security forces and the Election Commission of Nepal deserve to be congratulated for this achievement. The impressive turnout reflects the faith that the people of Nepal have reposed in the democratic process.”

Similarly, spokesperson of Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing hailed the CA elections as free and fair. The foreign ministry spokesperson held the view that the election will bring stability in Nepal.

Similarly, the United States congratulated the people of Nepal on their November 19 Constituent Assembly elections. These elections mark a vital step in the peace process that began in 2006.

According to the press statement by issued by U.S. Embassy,  elections like these are a milestone not just for Nepal but for the people around the world working to rebuild after conflicts and resolve disputes via constitutional and homegrown means. 

“The turnout shows their determination to take the peace process forward. The new Constituent Assembly will have the historic responsibility to complete a new constitution, building upon the impressive gains in the peace process so far, and thereby promoting national dialogue and genuine reconciliation. The United Nations remains committed to supporting Nepal in its transition towards a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future,” said UN in its press release

Likewise the Federal Foreign Office Spokesperson Germany issued the statement in Berlin on the elections to a Constituent Assembly held in Nepal on 19 November.

"We welcome the elections which have successfully taken place in Nepal for a new Constituent Assembly which will also take on the role of a parliament. We congratulate the interim government, which has succeeded in ensuring a free and credible election. This is an important step towards stability and economic development," reads the statement. “We urge the elected representatives to cooperate constructively to draw up a constitution which meets the expectations of the people.”

In her statement, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton hailed the elections to the Constituent Assembly of Nepal.

"I welcome the successful poll of 19 November 2013 in Nepal which marks a further step in the consolidation of its democratic transition. I congratulate the people of Nepal for having exercised their right to vote in large numbers, despite attempts to prevent them from doing so,” the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the Commission said.

With these elections, the people of Nepal have now given a clear mandate to the new Constituent Assembly to complete the drafting of the Constitution.

“I am confident that the Constituent Assembly will assume its responsibility and promptly deliver on this crucial task, so that the political stalemate can be overcome, legitimate and effective institutions put in place and local elections held as soon as possible. I encourage all political stakeholders to make this possible by adopting a constructive role in this historic moment,” said the statement.

“I commend the role played by the Interim Election Council of Ministers, the Election Commission of Nepal and participating parties, as well as the valuable contributions by national and international observing organizations and in particular, by the EU Election Observation Mission headed by the European Parliament Member Mrs Eva Joly."

Japanese Press Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, in a press statement, welcomed the holding of the second Constituent Assembly election in Nepal on November 19th in a largely peaceful manner without major confusion.

“Japan expects that Nepal will make a steady progress toward establishing a new constitution and continue to consolidate its democracy.”

Interim Government

By successfully conducting the elections to the Constituent Assembly on November 19, the main task of the present interim government led by Khil Raj Regmi has come to a conclusion. As the vote counting for the proportional representatives continues, it will take at least a month for the formation of the new government to replace the present one. Although Nepali Congress emerged as the largest party after wining 105 FPTP seats, followed by CPN-UML 91 and UCPN-Maoist 25, CPN-UML is marginally leading in the counting of proportional representatives. Till the counting of over 2 million vote out of 8.1 million total votes, CPN-UML, Nepali Congress, UCPN-Maoist are in the first three slots. Although it did not win any seat in First-The Past-Post-System, RPP-Nepal is taking the fourth position in proportional representatives system.

Constituent Assembly Role

Although the election is nearly over, there is some uncertainty about the authority to summon the session of the Constituent Assembly. After the counting of vote is complete, the Election Commission will publish the name list of winners and send them to the Constituent Assembly.

According to the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2006, the prime minister is given the authority to summon the session of Constituent Assembly within the 21 days after the completion of elections. Given the present situation when there is the chairman of the Council of Ministers, a constitutional controversy regarding the authority to summon the Constituent Assembly has begun.

Some constitutional experts argue that there is the need to amend the constitution to give the authority to summon the session of the House to the chairman of the council of ministers. Other argue that the president can summon the house.

According to the Interim Constitution, once the CA is summoned, the session of the House senior most member of newly elected CA will chair the session and he will be responsible to administering oath to the other members. (See Box)

Possible Scenario

Given the current political combination, more political instability with a hung parliament is likely. The politics will polarize between UCPN-Maoist led regional party's alliance and NC-CPN-UML combine. UCPN-Maoist is likely to make some kinds of alliance with Maoist. There will be more constitutional deadlock in the process of constitution writing in the present scenario. With UCPN-Maoist led alliance pursuing ethnic based federalism, NC-UML combine with federalism on geography and anti-federal forces under the RPP-Nepal, political deadlock is inevitable.

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