The thick air surrounding the formation of new government finally seems to be clearing with Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi reportedly agreeing to head the new election government. It has been clear all along that Regmi was interested in the offer. Otherwise, he could have rejected Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s proposal for government leadership soon after it was made public at the end of the UCPN (Maoist) general convention in the first week of February. It now seems that the few reservations Regmi had about accepting the offer have been addressed—even the Supreme Court seems to have given its go ahead to the CJ.
As he wished, the four main political forces appear ready to give Regmi until November (instead of June) to hold new CA polls. Regmi had been reluctant to take up the offer since new polls by June looks extremely difficult in the face of existing constitutional and administrative hurdles. In order to get Regmi on board, the four political forces have also assured him that they would try to take the legal fraternity, which has been deeply skeptical of the proposal, into confidence. Moreover, the Chief Justice seems convinced that there can be broad political understanding on his leadership, including with the parties that have threatened to take to the street against the ‘unconstitutional’ proposal.
The last point in vital. We have been supporting the proposal for a CJ-led government—even with our deep reservations about its implications on the delicate balance of powers between the three organs of the state—on the condition that there is broad consensus. We supported it because as things stood, it seemed to be the only way out of the long-stalled political and constitutional process, and because the removal of Bhattarai government had become indispensible to clear the way for new CA polls. Such a consensus, we believe, is vital for the credibility of the upcoming CA polls. These are no ordinary polls. Only the participation of the vast majority of the legitimate political forces in the election would give the future assembly the legitimacy and moral clout to draft a constitution on behalf of the people. If an agreement has indeed been struck on CJ-led election government, it is welcome news. Now the major parties have the tough, but by no means insurmountable, challenge of selling the agenda to other political parties as well as the skeptical legal fraternity.
We are still hopeful that the legal and administrative hurdles can be cleared at the earliest and the polls will still be possible by June. But we should also be mindful that in the haste, vital measures to ensure free and fair CA polls are not overlooked. If the legitimacy of the polls comes into question, the constitutional agenda could be aborted even before the new assembly sits. If there is broad consensus and free and fair CA polls can be guaranteed, there might be a genuine case for pushing the polls to November.
We believe if the political parties negotiate in good faith, there are no issues that cannot be resolved through dialogue, including the most contentious ones like formation of transitional justice mechanisms and delineating new electoral constituencies. Whatever their differences, all progressive political forces should unite to ensure timely CA polls so that Nepali people’s long wait to write their own constitution finally comes to an end