KATHMANDU, April 27: In the current debate and negotiations on the constitution, one important issue is conspicuously missing: slapping a term limit on the head of state/government.
"The top leaders haven´t taken up the issue so far; I am not sure if they will," said a leader involved in the negotiations.
Though the task force formed at the CA to deliberate on system of governance and prepare recommendations on this talks casually about limiting the term of the president it doesn´t say anything about the prime minister.
"We didn´t have a great deal of discussion on that issue," conceded a member of the task force.
However, limiting the terms of the head of state/government goes right to the heart of consolidating and institutionalizing democracy. And not to have such a limit is against the spirit of modern democracy.
NC lawmaker Radheshyam Adhikari is among several lawmakers in the CA who think that there should be a two-term limit on the head of state/government.
"There should not only be a two-term limit but we must also make sure that the same person doesn´t return to power after a term gap, as Vladimir Putin recently did in Russia," Adhikari said.
Most mature democracies now have a term limit on the elected head of state/government.
The practice began with the first US president, George Washington, refusing to contest a third term in 1797.
Washington, who had earlier brushed aside suggestions that he should become king and assume the crown after the success of the War of Independence under his leadership, believed profoundly that the American people-not any one individual- should remain supreme, and they should periodically chose a leader to govern them.
After the 32nd US president, Franklin D Roosevelt, broke with tradition and got himself elected for four consecutive terms between 1933 and 1945, the US formally passed a law in 1951 barring any president from assuming office for more than two terms.
Even in the People´s Republic of China (PRC), where one single party rules, the term limit is strictly followed. The Chinese president and prime minister serve for a maximum of two terms, each lasting five years.
The term limit in China has played a great role in minimizing power struggle among China´s ruling elites and is often credited with the institutionalization of stability and meritocracy in Chinese leadership successions.
However, in many phony democracies, the lack of any term limit has let leaders remain in the highest public office for decades and many have become authoritarian rulers over time.
What the absence of a term limit typically does is, it raises the ambitions of incumbents in the highest public office to remain ruler for many, many years- for a lifetime if possible. To fulfill their ambitions, they begin to amass wealth; create extensive patron-client networks to sustain their grip on power; try to block the rise of alternative leaders; and undermine internal democracy within their own party.
Equally damagingly, it stifles the rise of a new generation of leaders. With uncertainty about timely succession of leadership, the new generation of leaders generally becomes subservient to the existing leadership.
Nepali politics has suffered greatly from the lack of any term limit. For example, if there were a two-term limit for prime ministers, the late Girija Prasad Koirala would have retired from politics long before he died and the NC would have a much healthier line of succession to the leadership. Sher Bahadur Deuba would no longer harbor ambitions of becoming prime minister for the fourth time!
Lack of any term limit in the future constitution of Nepal will mean a repeat of the same old power struggle within political parties; encourage populist leaders to seek public office for as long as possible; and greatly stifle democratic evolution.
"We are talking about the overall democratization of Nepali society, so limiting the term of the head of state/government in the new constitution is necessary to further the democratization process," UML leader Pradeep Gyawali said.
He also admitted that the political parties haven´t paid enough attention to this issue, adding, "But we must take it up and make sure that it´s included in the new constitution."