Nepali parties non-committal: Prof. Baral
07 April 2012
A well-known political scientist from Nepal, Professor Lok Raj Baral, has said that the political parties of Nepal remain non-committal to the democratic process and that is the reason why peoples' desire to form a New Nepal has not been met yet.
Delivering a talk at Observer Research Foundation on April 4, Prof. Baral said, "Nepali polity is fractured, conflict-ridden and due to lack consensus, peoples' desire have not been translated into reality."
Prof. Baral was of the view that at present there is no convergence of ideology in Nepal. He said that every political group has its own interpretation of liberal values and norms and the central leadership cannot take its own decision. "So, even if Prachanda would want to compromise on some issues, other factions in his party and outside would cause obstruction," Prof. Baral said, adding, "political class has strategically divergent views. They are in a state of dilemma."
Pointing at the changed context in Nepal's political landscape, Prof. Baral said, "there are a number of disgruntled groups now in Nepal. The Maoist leaders now find themselves unable to deliver on the expectations of these groups." The Maoists mobilised ethnic groups, Dalits and women during the People's War. These groups are in the forefront now in demanding ethnicity-based federalism. Ethnic groups are united across party line.
Prof. Baral said that no government can now prevail as law and order cannot be maintained. On constitution making, he said that the most important concern is the lack of infrastructure to ensure stability of a constitution. He said that the political leaders are trying to come out with some sort of document by May 28, but "contentious issues will be put aside." He said if parties fail this time, "people will have to take another course."
Talking about the increasing use of violence as a strategy, Prof. Baral said that "ideology has become a tactic." He said that there will be no sustainability of radical groups in a country like Nepal and this is the reason why the Maoists had to come to the peace process. However, he pointed that the Maoists are trying to do too many things at a time. He said unlike in India where after independence all forces rallied behind one single agenda which facilitated the environment for making of the Indian constitution, in Nepal all parties are conflict-torn and no leadership is dominant.
"Unless the leaders themselves are confident, no real progress will be seen in the development of the country," Baral stated, adding, "if parties believe in democracy all issues can be resolved."
Although Prof. Baral pointed at the danger of an ethnicity-based federalism, he nevertheless stressed at the need to "accommodate" all opinions to avoid future clash.
He also said that India and China have crucial role to play in Nepal's peace process. But he criticised the role of the donor agencies in Nepal. He blamed foreign donors for espousing their own agendas in Nepal and said that donor-driven programmes have not yielded desired results.
Associate Professor of Law Ganesh Dutta Bhatta said that consensus among major political players is required for making a democratic constitution. But, he added, nothing will be achieved without the participation of the UCPN (Maoist). "Without their (Maoists) commitment, nothing is possible," he pointed.
Prof. Bhatta urged for timely pressure from international community and Nepal's immediate neighbours to conclude the peace process well within the present deadline.
He also said that the delay in constitution framing has been caused due to a number of reasons. "Besides the lack of commitment from major parties, the composition of the Constituent Assembly, which requires every decision to be passed by a two-thirds majority, has caused delay in framing constitution," he said. The other reasons, Bhatta pointed, are opposing views taken by the parties in the floor of the Assembly, power politics and dishonestly shown by the leaders.
Prof. Bhatta said that of the 53 unresolved issues on constitution making, only 22 issues remain unresolved currently. The main differences are over the form of government, electoral system and federal restructuring of the state. He said that there are parliamentary reports on key issues but these give "unclear direction."
There are 14 committees under the Constituent Assembly. While 11 are thematic committees, there are three technical committees. These committees were actively involved in collection of public opinion on major issues of constitution making. It had initially identified 210 disputed areas, which was later brought down to 78 and then to 22.
Unfortunately dispute resolution process was stalled due to lack of consensus among top leaders of three main parties in Nepal - the UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. While the Maoists and one section of UML want the peace process and constitution making to move ahead simultaneously, the Nepali Congress has demanded that the process of integration of former Maoist combatants be completed before writing a new constitution. This has paralysed constitution drafting in Nepal.
(This report is prepared by Akanshya Shah, Associate Fellow, Observer Research Foundation)