The King and the People

Is Nepal again headed for a monar­chy or will the CA frame a con­sti­tu­tion this time leading to a truly demo­cratic sys­tem?

Southasia - - REGION NEPAL - By Huza­ima Bukhari & Dr. Ikra­mul Haq The writ­ers, part­ners in the law firm Huza­ima & Ikram, are ad­junct fac­ulty mem­bers at La­hore Univer­sity of Man­age­ment Sci­ences (LUMS).

In the Federal Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Nepal, voices are be­com­ing louder for the restora­tion of the 240-year-old-monar­chy. For­mer King Gya­nen­dra, re­garded as the rein­car­na­tion of God by the Hindu ma­jor­ity, is work­ing to re­gain his lost em­pire. A large num­ber of people gath­ered around Gya­nen­dra dur­ing his re­cent vis­its to flood-af­fected ar­eas as he gen­er­ously dis­trib­uted re­lief goods. His grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity is cer­tainly un­nerv­ing many politi­cians.

The move for the re­vival of the monar­chy is get­ting im­pe­tus due to per­pet­ual po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity, eco­nomic hard­ships faced by the masses and the fail­ure of politi­cians to forge a na­tional con­sen­sus on fram­ing a con­sti­tu­tion. Many are of the view that the demise of the monar­chy, once the sym­bol of na­tional unity, was a wrong de­ci­sion. Quot­ing an anony­mous high-level source, weekly People’s Re­view of Nepal re­cently re­ported that “ef­forts were on a roadmap to re­store sta­bil­ity and pro­tect sovereignty of the coun­try.” Claim­ing close con­nec­tions and fre­quent meet­ings with the de­posed king, Maoist lead­ers and oth­ers, the source said that he (Gya­nen­dra) was not in­volved in small things like elec­tions.

“In­stead I am try­ing my best to give sta­bil­ity to this coun­try,” the source said, ex­plain­ing his roadmap that in­cluded giv­ing space to the king as head of the state, al­low­ing pre­mier­ship to the Uni­fied Com­mu­nist Party of Nepal (UCPN-Maoist) Chief, Pushpa Ka­mal Da­hal alias Prachanda and bring­ing the Na­tional Com­mu­nist Party-Maoist (NCP-M), the Ras­triya Pra­j­tantra Party (RPP) and the Tarai-based po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the govern­ment by keep­ing the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Uni­fied Marx­ist–Lenin­ist (UML) in the op­po­si­tion.

With their bases in In­dia, the Maoists had fought a decade-long guer­rilla war against the Nepal govern­ment un­til a Delhi-or­ches­trated deal was ac­cepted by ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in 2002 to end the monar­chy. The war ended in 2006, leav­ing around 13,000 people dead. Demo­cratic elec­tions to a Con­stituent As­sem­bly (CA) were held but power-hun­gry politi­cians were so di­vided that they could not com­plete the task even af­ter ex­tend­ing the term of the CA to four years. Fi­nally, the CA was dis­solved and Bhat­tarai of the UCPN headed an in­terim govern­ment which handed over power to the coun­try’s Chief Jus­tice, Regmi for hold­ing elec­tions in Novem­ber 2013.

More than 70 per­cent of Nepal’s el­i­gi­ble vot­ers par­tic­i­pated in the polls de­spite an elec­tion boy­cott and a trans­port strike by a coali­tion of 33 par­ties, led by hard­line Maoists. The NCP’s front-rank­ing leader, Netra Bikram Chand al­leged that ef­forts

were un­der­way for the dis­tri­bu­tion of Nepali ci­ti­zen­ship to In­di­ans (liv­ing in Nepal) and for the Sikkimiza­tion and an­nex­a­tion of Nepal. He claimed that his party would form an al­liance with the for­mer king, the Nepali Army and other pa­tri­otic forces to pro­tect the na­tional in­ter­est, in­tegrity and sovereignty.

The Nepali Congress, the coun­try’s

The fate of democ­racy in Nepal hinges on how quickly the CA tack­les the is­sue of con­sti­tu­tion fram­ing. Will Nepal be a West­min­ster-style par­lia­men­tary democ­racy with the king as the tit­u­lar head?

old­est po­lit­i­cal party and one that has close ties with In­dia, won 105 of the 240 di­rectly elected seats. The Com­mu­nist Party of Nepal (Uni­fied Marx­ist-Lenin­ist) came sec­ond with 91 seats. De­spite their party’s name, the Marx­ist-Lenin­ists are con­sid­ered cen­trists in Nepal. The Uni­fied Com­mu­nist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the dom­i­nant Com­mu­nist party, se­cured only 26 seats in the di­rect elec­tion, a small frac­tion of the to­tal it earned in the 2008 elec­tions.

Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers say that Da­hal now wants to de­velop a greater na­tion­al­ist front even at the cost of giv­ing space to the for­mer king. He and many of his col­leagues have re­al­ized that they have al­ready lost a pre­cious seven years and that in a coun­try like Nepal, the role of a king is vi­tal. He has, un­der com­pul­sion, come closer to Baidya, his po­lit­i­cal guru. They can join hands any time sidelin­ing the Bhattrai camp. He has al­ready sent the pro­posal of an al­liance to the for­mer king and if he gets a pos­i­tive re­sponse, the Nepalese press says Da­hal would be ready to is­sue a state­ment urg­ing the restora­tion of the in­sti­tu­tion of monar­chy and de­vel­op­ing a greater al­liance among the na­tion­al­ist forces.

Even some in the Nepali Congress Party ap­pears con­vinced. Dr Shasanka Koirala, son of BP Koirala, the found­ing mem­ber of the NC and for­mer prime min­is­ter, said in an in­ter­view with the BBC, “The in­sti­tu­tion of monar­chy should be re­stored to save the coun­try…it is the sym­bol of na­tional unity. We com­mit­ted a mis­take in re­mov­ing the in­sti­tu­tion from the con­sti­tu­tion.”

The RPP Chair­per­son, Ka­mal Thapa also ad­vo­cates the monar­chy con­cept, warn­ing that a fail­ure to ad­dress the is­sue will lead to protests. "The monar­chy has to be given some space in pol­i­tics. If our de­mand is not heard, we will launch mas­sive protests in­side the par­lia­ment and on the street," Thapa said. "The king has to be re-in­stalled as the cer­e­mo­nial head. This is the main agenda of the RPP-N," Thapa went on to add. Field­ing queries about his party's role in­side the CA, he said, “My party will play a key role in re-es­tab­lish­ing Nepal as a tra­di­tional Hindu King­dom and will stand against any ef­fort to form eth­nic­ity-based states.”

The es­tab­lish­ment of a con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy is still a far cry in Nepal. The sec­ond Con­stituent As­sem­bly is fac­ing the tough chal­lenge of fram­ing the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion. It will have to over­come the dead­lock over whether to adopt a par­lia­men­tary or a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem of govern­ment and whether eth­nic­ity or ge­og­ra­phy should be used to di­vide the coun­try into states.

In the midst of such con­fronta­tions, the fate of democ­racy in Nepal hinges on how quickly the CA tack­les the is­sue of con­sti­tu­tion fram­ing. Will Nepal be a West­min­ster-style par­lia­men­tary democ­racy with the king as the tit­u­lar head or whether he will en­joy a more ef­fec­tive and cen­tral place, is not clear. There is, how­ever, lit­tle chance of a com­plete col­lapse of the mul­ti­party sys­tem or to­tal restora­tion of the monar­chy in Nepal, even though Gya­nen­dra and roy­al­ists may de­sire this.

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