Political leadership of the executive branch is one of the defining characteristics of a party-based democracy. For better or worse, they are people’s chosen representatives on whose behalf they run the country. This principle is no less applicable in today’s Nepal. We continue to believe that the best way to end the current political and constitutional deadlock is a consensus government under new political leadership. But the prolonged failure to pick Baburam Bhattarai’s successor as the chief executive made the exploration of other options inevitable. After the failure of the major parties to agree on a common independent candidate, the ruling UCPN (Maoist) proposed that the sitting Chief Justice be given the leadership of the government mandated to hold new CA polls by May-end.
There are many legal and constitutional questions surrounding the CJ’s likely appointment as the executive head. The biggest (and very genuine) fear is that the principle of separation of powers, which is the soul of any democracy, could be jeopardized if the head of the judiciary holds the post of the executive at the same time. Nonetheless, it is an option worth exploring.
The continuation of Baburam Bhattarai government poses grave risks, the biggest being that there could be no CA polls if it refuses to go. Any further delay in holding new CA polls in turn is sure to create greater space for regressive forces, threatening to take the country back to the pre-2006 authoritarian dispensation. We are also afraid that the Bhattarai-led Maoist government will try to fish in muddy waters. It is pressing the President to sign the flawed ordinance on transitional justice mechanisms. Defying its caretaker status, the Cabinet on Friday approved the purchase of two MI-17 helicopters for Nepal Army, at a cost of Rs 3 billion.
It also handed over the contract for the international airport at Pokhara to a Chinese company, without calling for the mandatory tender. Some days ago, the Prime Minister ‘donated’ Rs 6 million to the ‘Marxist Study Center’, which he heads, from government coffers. These cases represent only the tip of the iceberg of the growing abuse and misappropriation of state funds in the aftermath of CA’s dissolution, which removed the need for parliamentary oversight of government works. The ouster of such an unaccountable government has become a necessity.
But if there is to be a CJ-led government, as appears likely, clear preemptive measures will have to be worked out to prevent the ‘non-political’ government from veering off the democratic track. First, there should be some kind of a political setup comprised of representatives from political parties to maintain an oversight over the CJ-led government.
It is important to give out the message that the course of national politics is still determined by political parties. Second, there must be a provision of automatic dissolution of the CJ-led government if it fails to hold CA polls within the scheduled date. The political parties must make sure that this ‘best among the worst’ of options that are available does not put their own relevance into question