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Deceiving Nepalese People

Issue 40, October 07, 2007

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Currently, the struggle between the group for the pro-proportional representation in a constituent assembly (CA) and against it is ongoing. The pro-proportional representation group is for a drastic change in the governance system for the betterment of the Nepalese people in general and marginalized people in particular whereas the group against pro-proportional representation is for the status quo and even for revival of the kingship going against the spirit of the People’s Movement in April 2006.

If the Nepalese people really want a lasting peace for building a better life of all Nepalis then we need an election system that will ensure representation of all ethnic, dalit, Madheshi, women and so on Nepalis in a CA. Only such a CA would be the rightful assembly for crafting a new constitution that would give the sense of belonging to all Nepalis.

Right after the success of the People’s Movement in April 2006, the regressive elements became active, and have been attempting to minimize the success of the movement for continuing the exclusive system that has discriminated majority of Nepalese people for the benefits of the ruling class for two and a half centuries. For example, using the mandate given by the People’s Movement in April 2006, first, the seven-party alliance (SPA) appointed five-term unsuccessful Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to the position of Interim Prime Minister. Second, he went to the palace and took the oath from the king as if the king appointed him. These two initial events were the beginning of the regression and the vivid example of how the five-term Prime Minister resisted the changes Nepalese people aspired for setting up a new inclusive system for the betterment of all Nepalis as demonstrated in the People’s Movement in April 2006.

Thereafter, the Prime Minister opposed every change that would bring peace and political stability. Consequently, political confusion persisted, and Prime Minister Koirala attempted to give Nepalese people an impression that the king was indispensable for the political stability saying he was for a ceremonial king, then a baby king and so on. He was not for taking the actions against the people responsible for suppressing the people’s movement, and not for disclosing the whereabouts of the enforced disappeared people during the insurgency. He gave shelter to the corrupt politicians in his party.

He empowered his party and himself taking the most powerful portfolio of the ministries such as Prime Minister, Defense, Home and Finance giving fringe portfolios such as foreign, health, local development and so on to other members of the SPA.  He did not listen to other members of his cabinet and dictated his decision in the cabinet meeting. His kitchen cabinet became active again.

The second largest party in the SPA, the CPN-UML could not do much against the dictatorial style of administration of Prime Minister Koirala and resurgence of the regressive forces but capitulated to his dictation. Consequently, the Prime Minister’s party put forward an election system called ‘mixed electoral system’ for CA polls instead of an inclusive system that would ensure proportional representation of all Nepalis in CA despite the insistence of the civil society leaders for an electoral system that will ensure the proportional representation of all Nepalis in a CA.

The ‘mixed electoral system’ comprises of two components 1) first-past-the-post system for electing 240 candidates, 2) proportional representation of political parties. Election laws, rules and regulations foresee that the political parties will ensure the representation of the people excluded from the development process so far in a CA.

Ironically, the CPN-Maoist accepted the ‘mixed electoral system’ provoking widespread condemnation of it from the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis, and joined the government on April 01, 2007. Several ethnic and Madheshi groups broke away from the CPN-Maoist, and formed their respective groups to fight against the ‘mixed electoral system’ but first they confronted with their former comrades-in-arms, Maoists.

The Prime Minister and his party NC saw it a good opportunity of ‘divide and rule’. So, they encouraged the Madheshi groups in fighting against the Maoists. The local administration did not do much to quell the violence against the innocent people, and became the mute spectator of massacre of 27 Maoists in Gaur, and recently the violence in the Kapilvastu district. The royalists indirectly supported by the NC and the SPA government fueled the violence.

The ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis showed their determination to fight for their rights to represent proportionally in a CA. They went on staging rallies in their respective land. They captured the highways and roads and ruled the areas demanding their rights to self-rule, federal state and republic.

The CPN-Maoist even belatedly came to realize their mistake of accepting the ‘mixed electoral system’ leaving behind their stand on a proportional representation for joining the government, but stopped short of apologizing the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis and went on saying to keep the commitment to their previous stand on proportional representation, federal state, and republic anticipating that they would be able to bring them back to its fold again.

To this end, the CPN-Maoist submitted a 22-point demand to the coalition government in which the CPN-Maoist was a partner, giving the deadline of September 18, 2007 for meeting its demand if not pulling the Maoist ministers out of the government and taking the issues to the streets peacefully.

The coalition government did not take the 22-point demand seriously and let the deadline expired. On September 18, the four Maoists ministers jointly tendered their resignation to the Interim Head of State and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, and hurriedly went to participate in a mass rally held by the CPN-Maoist at the open theater in Kathmandu.

On Friday, September 28, 2007, jointly with legislators of other two small left parties, the Maoist legislators registered a motion at the Prime Minister’s Office for calling a special session of the Interim Legislature to discuss and pass a resolution abolishing the monarchy and ensuring an electoral system for proportional representation in a CA.

Pursuant to the Article 51 of the Interim Constitution, Interim Prime Minister in consultation with the Speaker of the Interim Legislature has to call a special session of the legislature within 15 days if one-fourth - at least 83 interim legislators demand it. The combined strength of the three left parties in question is 87; the CPN-Maoist alone has 84 legislators at the legislature.

Prime Minister Koirala and his party have been openly opposing the proportional representation of ethnic, Madheshi, dalit, women and so on in a CA based on their population, and repeatedly committed to hold an election for a CA based on the ‘mixed electoral system’ under the influence of the international community. Some other fringe parties were supporting the stand of the Prime Minister on not accepting the proportional representation system. However, ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis were determined to fight against anyone that stood in the way to the proportional representation.

The NC had already deceived the Nepalese people backing off an election for a CA in 1950s, and giving away the king to take over the people’s power, and then in 1990s accepting the constitution that gave overwhelming power to the king, and now attempting to hold an election for a CA without making sure the representation of the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis in proportion to their population.

Ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis were sure to make the CA polls a failure. However, Prime Minister Koirala was sure to hold the election and make the election possible using the favorable international community’s opinions, and probably using the armed police and military to suppress the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis’ demands. However, such an election might not be better than the municipal election held by the king’s government in February 2006. So, if the Prime Minister Koirala insisted on holding an election for a CA based on the ‘mixed electoral system’, he might need to face the consequences faced by the king after the municipal election in February 2006.

The CPN-Maoist has taken up the issue of the proportional representation, and has shown its commitment to stall the election for a CA until it would ensure the proportional representation of all Nepalis. The attempt of the CPN-Maoist to lead the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis for a proportional representation system of election has polarized the political parties into pro and against proportional election system groups. It would bring direct confrontation between the NC-led group opting for an election for a CA without proportional representation, and the ethnic and Madheshi Nepalis and the CPN-Maoist for a proportional representation election.

An election for a CA should ensure the proportional representation of all Nepalis as it is going to craft a new constitution by the Nepalese people themselves. Such a constitution should address the concerns of all Nepalis so it is indispensable to have the representation of all Nepalis in a CA. It should work on consensus of all representatives of all Nepalis on all matters concerning all the Nepalese people. So, the election for a CA should not be political party-based but should be for ensuring the representatives of all Nepalis in a CA.

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