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NOV 25 - Onus lies on parties to agree on a Premier to head the election govt

President Ram Baran Yadav’s call for the political parties to name a candidate within a week to lead a consensus government has been met with both support and opposition. A number of political leaders, including Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, have hinted support for the move, believing that it will pressure the parties to put aside their differences to reach agreement on a new government. This, Dahal believes, will pave the way for fresh elections in April-May. The opposition parties have supported the move as they believe that it will force the current Baburam Bhattarai-government to step down. PM  Bhattarai, on the other hand, has strongly opposed the president’s move. He and some others claim that it is unconstitutional; that there is no provision in the interim constitution for the head of state to take any executive decision.

In fact, there is reason to treat the president’s call with caution. On the one hand, it appears to be a good-faith attempt to resolve the political deadlock. That, in the absence of a legislature, the president is simply exercising his role as guardian of the constitution. On the other, the Interim Constitution does not envisage a situation where there will be no legislature. It is true that the document does not allow the president to take any decision without approval of the Council of Ministers. Further, there is some worry that the president’s call is similar to the one made by king Gyanendra on October 4, 2002, when he dismissed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. It will be remembered how this step paved the way to a total seizure of power by the king. So far, the president has not made any effort to control the reins of the state directly. It will set an extremely bad precedent if he does so.

There is also some talk that if the parties are unable to reach an agreement soon, the president will nominate a “civil society” figure to lead an election government. Some wish this to happen, disillusioned as they are with the political parties. But a prime minister from civil society is not desirable. As Devendra Raj Panday, a civil society representative himself, has said in a recent interview, this will send a message that the parties have failed and will invite anti-democratic forces to intervene into politics. Further, a civil society leader, lacking the backing of political parties, could be ineffective in marshalling public opinion. He or she could find it difficult to reconcile the various disagreements between the parties or to hold elections in April-May. The task of the moment, then, is for the parties to quickly decide on a prime ministerial candidate from within the mainstream parties and hold elections.

Posted on: 2012-11-26 09:33

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