Murari Sharma: Want New Constitution Quickly? Do Something Unusual

The Nepali Congress Party has decided to lead the next government and the UML is claiming a bulky share in it. It is so like the failed Constituent Assembly I. If a new constitution is to be drafted within a year, as they have promised, they should let the Khil Raj Regmi government continue and focus their time and energy on the statute.

Hardly one month has passed since the 19 November elections for the CA II, the popular hope and enthusiasm about getting a new constitution from six months to a year has already evaporated, thanks to disagreements among the major political parties. Some analysts have even suggested that the CA II will repeat the CA I fiasco.

Naturally, the ideal and best option is for the elected leaders to rule and write the new constitution from six months to a year, as most parties have promised in their manifesto. The second best option consists of letting the bureaucratic government continue while the elected leaders target their energy and time to formulate the law of land. Third and the worst option is for the elected leaders to run the government and not deliver the constitution for next several years.

Evidently, the CA I went for the best option and ended up with the worst. Given the political squabble that has erupted in Kathmandu after the recent polls, there is every likelihood that the CA II will follow the disastrous path of the CA I.

The Nepali Congress and UML, the largest and second largest respectively in the CA II, are competing for power and have threatened to sit in the opposition if they did not get what they want. The Maoists, reduced from the largest in the CA I to third in the CA II, have put forward a slew of preconditions to remain relevant. The 33 parties opposed to the CA II elections want to write a constitution outside the Assembly.

In a normal parliament, political parties should try to gain and retain power. But the CA is not a normal parliament; its principal goal is to write a new constitution; and the power game being played will come in the way of drafting a new statute. The CA I did not work well as a legislature or as a constitution writing body. The CA II might follow suit if leaders do not recognize this difference.

Some analysts have prescribed the Indian model for Nepal. The Indian CA was headed by two different speakers, one for making law and the other for drafting the statue. But that was not the reason why it succeeded in delivering the constitution within three years.

India had a different set of political circumstances in 1947: The CA was elected by provincial assemblies; had only 299 members; had 69 percent members from the Indian Congress alone; and was led by a visionary leader Dr. Rejendra Prasad. And the government was led by the illustrious and enlightened leader Jawaharlal Nehru.

Nepal does not have the leaders of Prasad and Nehru’s vision and caliber. Its CA is more inclusive, more complex and more divided. You cannot expect the same result from a drastically different set of circumstance.

That leaves us with the second best option. Although it sounds anti-climactic and anti-democratic at a time when the newly elected leaders are restless to reclaim the saddle of government, letting the Khil Raj Regmi government continue will free the NC and UML of the burden of government, and write the constitution and go for parliamentary election quickly. A small sacrifice now will give them a new and longer mandate to govern.

It is possible. The CA I has covered much ground. The NC and UML should first show magnanimity to the Maoists and Madheshi parties and strive to find understanding on the outstanding issues of federalism and form of government, on which they differ. If the effort fails, they should go for the constitutional provision under which they could approve the new constitution with a two-thirds majority. They can easily muster the number.

The Maoists and other protesting parties will not respect the two-thirds majority and will protest and engage in violence against the government. The government headed by the NC or UML will not be able to maintain law and order and will have to compromise against the voters will to keep the street quiet.

But the Regmi government will be under no such constraints. It will effectively maintain law and order, as we saw in the last several months, and the NC and UML can focus on the constitution without the burden or risks of government. Once the NC and UML have decided to stay out of government, they will have very few issues to fight over. The constitution will be written quickly.

That is why the current administration of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi should be allowed to run the country and conduct the local elections while the CA focuses its energy and effort on drafting the new constitution. The Regmi government could also conduct the parliamentary elections under the new constitution and hand over power to the elected government.

In Economics, there is a theory of second best. It suggests that when the first best option is impossible to achieve beneficially, you go for the second best, which if not ideal, but is beneficial.

Since the best option runs the risk of ending up as the worst, the second best option will deliver a new constitution within a year. The NC and UML should let the Regmi government continue for six months within which time the constitution could be written and focus on the statute. It is a bitter pill but a good one to cure our political disease of lacking the capacity to compromise for the greater good.


Who Fouled up the Election?

By Murari Sharma

I had read a story long time ago in which the main character, attacked by someone at night, wonders about who might have assaulted him even though he had no enemy but concludes that everyone around him could have reason to hurt him. The UCPN (Maoist) finds itself in that character’s predicament after the recent election debacle of monumental proportions.

But there is a major difference between the story character and Maoist leaders: The former quietly pondered while the latter have been making hue and cry about domestic and foreign players fouling up the election. So much so that the Maoists have announced that they would boycott CA II if their complaint about the election fraud were not properly addressed.

In a monumental decline, the Maoists were reduced from the first position with 238 seats in the 601-seat Constituent Assembly I to the remotely third position in CA II. They have 80 seats from direct and proportional elections and may have four more seats if the nominated 26 are apportioned this time as before. All told, their rivals, the Nepali Congress, the CPN (UML) and the UCPN (Maoist), may  have 215 and 183 seats respectively.

To internally investigate the election fraud, the UCPN (Maoist) constituted a committee headed by Barsa Man Pun. The committee reported that the Election Commission and the army had conducted institutional fraud by letting the army transport the ballot boxes to counting centers and letting their agents go with the ballot boxes and demanded official investigation. Both agencies have denounced the allegation as baseless.

Why the alleged institutional fraud? The Maoists claim that domestic and external players conspired to defeat them. In a great irony, among internal players, the head of the election government, Khil Raj Regmi, and the chief election commissioner were appointed at the recommendation of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the fallen Maoist star. The army chief was appointed by Dahal’s deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, when he was prime minister. It is inconceivable that the Maoist protégés could have betrayed their mentors.

The usual external suspects are India and Western countries. Of course, India prodded Nepal to go for the polls at the earliest and helped organize them with equipment and materials. But it apparently did not try to influence the outcome as such. India did not help Madheshi parties, even though Rajendra Mahato, the Sadbhavana Party leader, has said their defeat was India’s defeat.

There is no indication, let alone proof, that Western countries tried to shape the election result. Why should they? They are sympathetic to the Maoist proposal to carve Nepal into an ethnic federal state. And they do not have the kind of network India has in Nepal to influence Nepalese elections, even if they wanted.

Let us stretch the net further and include China as a potential suspect because it is wary about the ethnic division of states in a federal Nepal. But Beijing would not want to defeat the ideologically closest kin that is also most sympathetic to its most vital interest in Nepal: Control anti-China activities of Tibetan refugees.

Put it differently, the conspiracy by national and foreign elements does not wash.

That leaves voters disaffection as the only valid and overwhelming reason behind the Maoist meltdown. As the largest party in the CA I, the Maoists could not deliver good government and a new constitution. Government was corrupt and ineffective and the constitution stalled because the Maoists backed out of the last minute compromise on federalism. Besides, Maoist leaders were arrogant. So voters jilted the new boys in town and went back to the old love.

It was unexpected. Dahal and Bhattarai had called on voters to give them a two-thirds majority and hoped that they would again be the largest party. Even analysts had predicted only a slight loss for the Maoists. However, the Nepali Congress and UML had predicted that they would win the election and did. Madheshis had hoped to win big on “One Madhesh, One Pradesh.”

Of all, Dahal was stunned most. He had left no stone unturned to win. Going against the grain of communist ideology, he had rooted for ethnic states. He had called on his supporters to use all fair and foul means, including booth capturing, for his party to win, had travelled across the country by helicopter flouting the Election Code of Conduct to arouse support for his party. Voters thronged to see him and his helicopter but voted for opponents.

Dahal himself lost a relatively unknown NC candidate the Kathmandu constituency. His victory from Siraha was wafer thin. Bhattarai too won one and lost the other. So many of their comrades lost. With this outcome, Dahal’s dream to write a constitution in his vision and become the first executive president of Nepal shattered into smithereens. Now he is worried about losing his party leadership.

To be fair to Dahal, elections are never perfect, not even in most advanced democracies.  Carried out nation-wide on a single day by thousands of officials in thousands of booths, they are likely to have weaknesses even in the most advanced countries. In the recent Australian elections, some ballot boxes were found missing. The Supreme Court settled the dispute over hanging chads in the Bush-Gore contest for the US presidency in 2003.

Neither in 2008 nor in 2013, the Nepalese elections were clean. If the 2008 vote were clean, Bhattarai would not have won by a higher margin than the total number of voters in his constituency. This time, Dahal himself had asked his supporters to get the vote by hook or crook. Others may have followed suit. Yet this election was the cleanest in Nepal’s history thanks to voters identity cards and non-partisan election government. Both national and internal observers, including the former US President Jimmy Carter, have vouched for it.

Although Dahal might be making a noise about fraud to save his leadership, he or his party has no moral ground to denounce the vote, boycott the CA II, and disrespect the voters’ mandate. In democratic politics, losing one ballot is not the end of the world. Losing patience with voters is. If the Maoists behave, they will have a second chance. It is a different matter altogether that the winners should demonstrate some magnanimity towards the losers as well.

But when will the Maoists realize that they have lost the election and their main enemy was themselves?

काँग्रेस-एमालेलाई अवसर र चुनौती

मुरारि शर्मा

नेपाली जनताको चेतनाको बारेमा कसैलाई शंका थियो भने उनीहरुले मंग्सीर ४ को निर्वाचनको परिणामबाट त्यसको पूर्ण निवारण गरिदिएका छन् | यस पटक मात्र होइन, २०४६ सालदेखि नै नेपाली जनताले आफ्नो राजनैतिक चेतनाको उम्दा उदाहरण पटकपटक दिएका छन्.l

२०४६ सालको चुनावमा नेपाली जनताले प्रजातन्त्रको लागि जनआन्दोलनको नेतृत्व गर्ने नेपाली काँग्रेसलाई सबभन्दा ठूलो दल बनाएर संसदमा पठाए l जनताको सद्भावले सत्तामा पुगेपछि काँग्रेस मात्तियो र मध्यावधि चुनावमा गयो | जनताले नेपाल कम्युनिस्ट दल (एमाले) लाई सबभन्दा ठूलो बनाएर संसदमा पठाए | एमाले पनि मात्तियो सत्तामा पुगेपछि | उसको अल्पमतको सरकार धराशायी हुने देखेपछि उसले अरु दलसंग सहकार्य गर्नुको सट्टा चुनाव भएको ९ महीनाभित्रै अर्को चुनाव घोषणा गर्न पुग्यो, जुन सर्वोच्च अदालतले तुहाइदियो | अर्को चार बर्षसम्मका अप्राकृतिक गठबन्धन र त्यसले उब्जाएको सांसद किन-बेच लगायत अन्य भ्रस्टाचारको पराकाष्टा पछि भएको अर्को चुनावमा नेपाली जनताले फेरि एक पटक नेपाली काँग्रेसलाई विजयी बनाएर संसद पठाए | सत्तामा पुगेपछि फेरि पनि काँग्रेस मात्तियो |  सत्ताको बागडोर दरबारमा जिम्मा लगाएर काँग्रेस फुट्यो |

त्यसपछि भएको २०६४ को निर्वाचनमा जनताले  क्रान्तिकारी पहिचान बोकेर आएको नेपाल कम्युनिष्ट दल (माओवादी) लाई सबभन्दा ठूलो बनाएर संविधान सभामा नयाँ संविधान लेख्न पठाए | मधेश आन्दोलनको बलमा मधेशवादी दलहरुले पनि राम्रै सहभागिता पाए | चुनावमा सबभन्दा ठूलो दल बनेपछि माओवादी उत्ताउलियो  मात्तिएर | उ प्रजातान्त्रिक नयाँ संविधान लेख्ने भन्दा कसरी सत्ता एकलौटी पर्ने भन्ने दाउतिर लाग्यो | माओवादी नेताले सम्पत्ति र बैभवमा आहाल खेलेर जनताका चाहना र १७,०००  मान्छेको बलिदान बिर्सिए | हेलिकप्टरबिना चुनाव प्रचारमा जान नसक्ने र स्व-घोषित रास्ट्रपति भए | मधेशवादी दलहरु माओवादी नेताको चाटुकारिता र सत्ताको मोहपासको दलदलमा भासिएर जनताका माग सम्बोधन गर्नुको सट्टा  र क्षेत्रियताको बलमा सत्तामा आफ्नो दीर्घकालीन पकड जमाउनेतिर लागे | संविधान नलेखी संविधान सभा मर्यो |

यस पटकको चुनावमा जनताले माओवादी  र मधेशवादी दुबैलाई पछारेर फेरि एक पटक मध्यमार्गी नेपाली काँग्रेसलाई बहुमत दिएर र एमालेलाई दोस्रो ठूलो दल बनाएर संविधान सभामा पठाएका छन् |  यस चुनावका मूल मुद्दा संविधान, संघीयता र सरकारको स्वरुप हुन् | जनतालाई काँग्रेस-एमालेको धारणा मन पर्यो अरुको परेन | हारजीतको चूरो कुरो यही हो | काँग्रेस र एमाले फेरि पनि मात्तिए भने नेपाली जनताले तिनीहरुलाई फेरि पनि सजायं दिने छन् |

यस चुनावले विजेता नेपाली काँग्रेस र एमाले नयाँ अवसर र चुनौती दुवै दिएको छ | उनीहरुको मध्यमार्गी प्रजातन्त्र र संघीयताको मुद्दाको जनअनुमोदनले नेपाली समाजको सही प्रतिनिधित्व गर्ने बहुपहिचानमूलक संघीयता र विकाशमूलक प्रजातान्त्रिक संविधान लेख्ने अवसर दिएको छ भने हारेका दलहरुलाई समेटेर सर्बमान्य राष्ट्रिय कानून तयार पार्ने ठूलो चुनौती पनि दिएको छ |

जनता विकास चाहन्छन | थेग्न सक्ने संघीयता चाहन्छन | राष्ट्रिय अखण्डता चाहन्छन | जातजातिबीच सद्भाव र सहजीवन चाहन्छन |  स्वच्छ शासन चाहन्छन | प्रजातन्त्र चाहन्छन | यो चुनावपरिणामले जनताका माग र मुद्दाका आडमा आफ्नो स्वार्थसिद्धि गर्न खोज्ने अतिवादीहरुलाई दण्डित गरेर ती माग र मुद्दा पुरा गर्न नयाँ नेतृत्वको चयन गरेकोछ | यो हार्ने नेताहरु, दलहरुको र उनीहरुको दृष्टिकोणको हार हो | कुनै समूहका नेपाली जनताको वा उनीहरुका मुद्दाको हार होइन | न त भारतको हार हो | जनताले विकास बिरोधी, प्रजातन्त्र बिरोधी, भ्रस्टाचारी एवं मुलुकले थेग्न नसक्ने र जातीय सद्भाव बिथोल्ने संघीयताका समर्थकहरुलाई यस चुनावमा बढारेर पाखा लगाइदिए |

चुनौतीहरुलाई सम्बोधन नगरी नम्बरको बलमा संविधान लेख्नेतिर भरिसक्य लाग्नु हुँदैन काँग्रेस र एमालेले | संविधानलाई बहुमत पुर्याएर पारित गरिने सामान्य कानूनको रुपमा मात्र हेरिनु हुँदैन | नत सहमतिको नाममा मुलुकलाई सँधै अनिर्णयको बन्दी बनाइराख्न हुन्छ |  भरसक सबैको लागि स्वीकार्य होस् भन्ने दृष्टिकोण राखेमा मात्र संविधानको स्थायित्व प्राप्त गर्न सकिन्छ | तर यस पटक आफ्नो वर्चस्व गुमाएका दलहरु जनताले चाहेको मध्यधारमा नआएर जनताबाट अस्वीकृत आफ्नो अडानमा टिके भने के गर्ने भन्ने अहम प्रश्नको उत्तरका लागि पनि काँग्रेस र एमाले तयार रहनु पर्छ |

त्यसका लागि काँग्रेस र एमालेले सहकार्य गरेभने संविधान सभामा झन्डै दुइ-तिहाई मत हुन्छ | प्रत्यक्ष र समानुपातिक मत जोड्दा काँग्रेसको १९६ र एमालेको १७५ सिट पुग्छ | मनोनीत २६ स्थानमा काँग्रेसको ९ र एमालेको ७ सिट आयो भने ३८७ सिट यी दुई दलको मात्र हुन्छ | एकदुई साना दललाई साथलिए संविधान पारित गर्न अन्तरिम संविधानले तोकेको ४०१ संख्या पुग्छ | बहुमतीय आधारमा संविधान पारित गर्ने प्रावधानलाई अन्तिम अश्त्रको रुपमा मात्र प्रयोग गरिनु पर्छ |

जनमतको अनादर गरेर संविधान सभामा भाग नलिने एकीकृत माओवादी नेता पुष्प कमल दाहालको धम्की उनको राजनैतिक कदभन्दा धेरै तल्लो भयो भनेर धेरैले भनिसकेका छन् | उनको दलबिरुद्ध देशी विदेशी चलखेल भयो भन्ने आरोपमा पनि केही दम छैन | किनभने त्यस्तो खेल भएको भए अरुभन्दा उनले र बाबुराम भट्टराईले चुनाव हार्नु पर्थ्यो | हारेनन | फेरि कुन विदेशीले चलखेल गर्यो? पश्चिमा राष्ट्रहरु जातीय संघीयता चाहन्थे | भारत पनि जातीय संघीयताको विरोधी थियेन | चीनलाई अलिक असजिलो लागेको हो | के दाहालले चीनले एमाओवादीलाई हराउन चलखेल गर्यो भन्न खोजेका हुन् हो? चीनले त्यसो गर्यो भन्ने मलाई लाग्दैन |

चुनावमा हार्ने व्यक्त्ति र दलले चुनावमा धाँधली भयो भन्नु स्वाभाभिक हो | प्रायः सबैले भन्छन र भनेका छन् | चुनाव शतप्रतिशत धाँधलीरहित हुन्छ भनेर कसैले ठोकुवा गर्न पनि सक्दैन | अमेरिकामा समेत राष्ट्रपतिका प्रत्यासी बुश-गोरको हारजीत सर्बोच्च अदालतमा पुगेर टुंगिएको थियो | मतदाता परिचयपत्रको कारणले यस पटकको चुनाव नेपालको इतिहासमा नै सबभन्दा स्वछ भयो भन्ने कुरा स्वदेशी र विदेशी चुनाव पर्यवेक्षकहरुले भनेका छन् | तैपनि चुनावमा धाँधली भएका पर्याप्त प्रमाण छन् भने पीडित व्यक्ति र दलले अधिकार प्राप्त निकायमा पेश गर्नु पर्छ र त्यस्तो निकायले त्यसको जांच गरी आवश्यक आदेश दिनु पर्छ | न्याय भएर मात्र पुग्दैन, न्याय भएको पनि देखिनु पर्छ |

तर संविधान सभाको निर्वाचन बहिस्कार गर्ने दल, खासगरी बैद्य माओवादी दललाई के गर्ने? उनीहरुलाई संविधान निर्माणमा सहभागी गराउने तीन बाटा — मनोनयन, संविधान संशोधन र बाह्य सल्लाह — मध्ये दुई बाटा राम्रा छैनन् | मन्त्रिपरिषदले मनोनयन गर्ने २६ सबै वा तीमध्ये केही सिट उनीहरुलाई दिने बाटो सजिलो छ तर त्यो बैद्य माओवादीको लागि सम्म्मानजनक बाटो हुँदैन | साथै यदि सहमतिबाट संविधान बन्ने अवस्था आएन भने काँग्रेस-एमालेले दुई-तिहाईबाट संविधान पारित गर्ने सम्भावना कम्जोर भएर जान्छ | यदि यस पटक संविधान बनेन भने मुलुकमा अन्योल कायम रहने छ र काँग्रेस-एमालेले अर्को पटक यसपाली माओवादी-मधेशवादी जस्तै नराम्रोसंग चुनाव हार्ने छन् |

अन्तरिम संविधान संशोधन गरेर बैद्य बिनानिर्वाचन माओवादीलाई संविधान सभामा ल्याउने कुरा सुन्नमा आएको छ | अहिले बैद्य माओवादीले पनि संविधान सभामा भाग लिने चाहना प्रकट गरेको देख्दा उनीहरुले चुनावको विरोध सैधान्तिक धरातलमा होइन, हारिन्छ भन्ने डरले गरेका रहेछन भन्ने स्पस्ट हुन्छ | हुन पनि चोइटिएर गएका दलले २०४६ पछिका सबै चुनाव नराम्रो संग हारेका छन् | यो हास्यास्पद कुरा भएकोले यसमा अरु शब्द खर्च नगरौं |

चुनाव बहिस्कार गर्ने दलहरुलाई संविधान निर्माणमा संलग्न गराउने उत्तम उपाय संविधान सभाबाहिर अबाध्यात्मक राजनैतिक छलफल हो जुन काँग्रेस-एमालेले गर्नु पर्छ | यस्तो छलफल र समझदारीले सभाको सार्वभौम अधिकार, गरिमा र कार्यक्षेत्रमा हस्तक्षेप भने हुनु हुँदैन किन भने त्यो जनताको मतको अनादर हुन्छ |

यस चुनावमा नत नेपाली काँग्रेस र एमालेले जे मनलाग्यो त्यही गर्ने जनादेश पाएका हुन् न त अरु दलले | सहमतीय वा बहुमतीय माध्यमबाट होस्, काँग्रेस र एमालेले वाचा गरेअनुसार विकाशमूलक, बहुपहिचानी संघीयतामूलक र प्रजातान्त्रिक संविधान एक वर्षभित्रमा जनतालाई चाहिएको छ |