SPECIAL EDITORIAL: Time to step down

DEC 27 -

Unless the ruling coalition and the opposition act soon, there is a clear and imminent danger that there will be no elections in April-May. Postponing elections yet again, in whatever pretext, is certain to plunge the country into a deeper constitutional vacuum. As we have repeatedly stated in the past, an absence of elected parliament is going to further erode constitutionalism and democracy. At this stage, therefore, it is imperative that elections in April-May are held at any cost.  

Since the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly seven months ago, the parties have been unable to come to a consensus on elections, as with many other issues of vital importance. Instead, the parties are engaged in a never-ending blame game, one-upmanship, even as the country gets dragged into political inertia, thanks to near-defunct state of such crucial constitutional bodies as the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. This is nothing short of a national calamity, if only the political actors saw the gravity of the situation. This is where the importance of early elections lies. Given the choice, it appears today that our parties will continue to find excuses not to hold elections, citing both technical and political reasons. But there is no perfect time for elections for all the parties.

Current negotiations have endlessly dragged over who will lead the national unity government and this is threatening to shut down the small window elections in April-May. For elections to happen, both the ruling coalition, especially the UCPN (Maoist) and the opposition, especially the Nepali Congress (NC), need to soften their stance. PM Bhattarai, who has been insisting that NC join his government before he steps down, needs to promise NC that he will do so within a very short time -- not months but days -- once NC joins the national unity government.

The NC, which has been rejecting the idea of joining unity government under PM Bhattarai, needs to accept that there is no alternative to working with the Maoists, their partners in the peace process. It's time to look at the larger picture: the gains made after 2005 agreement between the parliamentary parties and the Maoists resulted in a successful Jana Andolan, restoration of democracy, CA elections, abolition of monarchy and establishment of secularism and federalism. It's time both NC and Maoists realised all these gains could be under threat in face of advancing regression. NC joining PM Bhattarai's government, if only for a brief period, will give much-needed assurance that the two major political forces can still work together, without which it's heard see Nepal getting a new constitution.

PM Bhattarai, worried about his legacy, is well aware that if elections happen in April-May he will reap the credit. On the other hand, if there are no elections, he will be discredited for his inability to break the impasse, and his perseverance will be perceived as a ploy to extend the life of his government forever. All responsible politicians should realise that the legacy of 2006 Jana Andolan and the future of the peace process is at stake. Elections, however difficult, are currently the only guarantee that politics will not take a regressive turn. PM Bhattarai will do well to read this historic political message.

Posted on: 2012-12-27 08:19