While the question of whether the President had the power to call for a consensus government remains debatable on legal grounds, we believe his deadline, while it was first issued, could have been instrumental in providing a breakthrough. The President’s call seemed to have given an impetus to the effort to forge consensus for the formation of new government. But when the political parties repeatedly ignored his calls, the whole exercise of extending consensus deadline, again and again and again, had started to appear like a farce. Of late, the parties had refused even to sit together for formal talks. This meaningless cycle of deadlines has thankfully come to an end, with both the President as well as the ruling parties opposing yet another extension. Does it imply that all hopes of consensus have been extinguished?
It appears that way. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has asked President Yadav to either endorse the nearly dozen ordinances that have been forwarded to him, failing which, he was told, the government would be forced to explore the option of reinstating the dissolved Constituent Assembly. This is an extraordinarily audacious demand. First, Bhattarai should understand that the President is in no position to endorse the ordinances without broader consensus. Even if there was consensus on passing the ordinances, these top-down diktats are surely no way to run a democracy. There are other problematic areas as well. The government is pushing for the passage of the ordinance on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Apparently, the TRC’s passage would help resolve all conflict-era rights violations cases, including that of murdered journalist Dekendra Thapa. It would serve no such purpose. The ordinance, in fact, makes a mockery of rule of law and transitional justice, by proposing blanket amnesty for all rights violators. The passage of TRC ordinance, in its current form, would be disastrous for the already fragile human rights situation in the country, and would send an unmistakable message that Nepal is not serious about its international obligations.
The Prime Minister’s proposal of CA reinstatement is even more problematic. This May, it will be five years to last CA polls. The time is thus ripe for another election, the lifeblood of any democracy. Also, the original mandate of the Constituent Assembly was just two years, extended on questionable legal grounds time and again. Resurrection of the assembly which has now been dead for nearly eight months will not be legally feasible. Moreover, any such attempt will be interpreted as the ruling alliance’s desire to continue in office indefinitely, by pushing election farther and farther down the road.
The only way out of the deadlock at present is the ouster of the current government and its replacement by a consensus government with a mandate to conduct new CA polls. It is disingenuous of the ruling coalition to argue that since CA polls by May are now impossible, reinstatement is the only option. It was the intransigence of the ruling alliance which made polls by May all but impossible. If the ruling alliance still refuses to see reason and continues on its undemocratic path—seeking pardon for self-confessed murderers and trying to subvert justice for victims of women’s rights violations—not only will all progressive achievements since 2006 be in jeopardy, the country’s democratic status might too be on the line