Politically, general voters, political parties, and politicians have couple of decade’s experience of how a Westminster Parliamentary system would work in Nepal. So far, the system has worked not for the nation and people, but for the politicians to grab the power and the wealth from nation’s capital under the unitary system of government.
This does not mean to blame Democracy because the Westminster Parliamentary system has failed in Nepal to institutionalize a system for regulating, for example, the revenue of a township or a village development community as resource for the local development. As a result, no grass-root development took place with the absence of democratic regulations.
On the contrary, since 1990 Democracy has given people freedom and opportunity to develop their community on their own without specific regulation to process their enterprise. Conglomeration of Kathmandu city is the dreadful example of the consequence. Visiting Kathmandu I feel as if I lose the sense of direction while walking along the street. It is obvious that Kathmandu has become one of the world’s urban hodgepodges where Google map will definitely fail to find the locations.
This all happened because the Westminster Parliamentary form of government has created instability with the cabinet formations that kept changing rapidly with one prime minister after another. Consequently, such a form of government could not lead the nation with a certain direction within a certain period of time. Instability of the government cabinet dragged the nation into multi-facet conflicts. The Maoist insurgency is the historical example.
One of the reasons of failure of the Westminster Parliamentary form of government in Nepal is that it blindly complied with the unitary system and its century old regulations and policies. As a result, it got stuck in the capital of the nation by deliberately ignoring grass-root developments.
I had once suggested former Prime Minister Mr. Deupa in 1996 that he should as a legislator introduce a bill to eliminate the centrally appointed chief district officers (CDO) and let the directly elected district chair and his district assembly run the district administration. The transition could have taken several years but the Westminster Parliamentary practice could have laid greater impact on grass-root level politics.
That’s why Nepali people are desperate to find a stable form of government whether be in Parliamentary or in Presidential form by directly electing head of the government as Prime Minister or the President for the full term. It will, of course, create a sense of stability in the politics and it might as well allow the government to regulate grass-root level developments through federal setup.
At this point, the nation has stuck with the orthodoxy of a political party that advocates the old school of thought of the Westminster Parliamentary form of government without any amendment that has already taken place in last century. Such an advocacy is regressive in itself because the nation is unwilling to accept the old form that by virtue is unstable. Nation needs a stable form of government for the full term. Yet, the senior leaders of the party (Nepali Congress) that advocate instable form of government are unwilling to modernize it with the directly elected Prime Minister as the head of the government for the full term.
There are only few countries left in the world which practice the old form of the Westminster Parliamentary government not by directly electing Prime Minister for the full term. Among them are the old fashioned India and the good old England, the United Kingdom (both regulate under the federal system.) But majority of countries, which practice the Parliamentary form of government, have modernized and are electing their Prime Minister directly as the head of the government for the full term under the federal system. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavian countries are the example. I am sure Nepali Congress senior leaders know about it.
The reason that the senior leaders of Nepali Congress defend the old fashioned Westminster Parliamentary form of government from getting modernized is nothing but fear of losing political grips. If they fail to self-examine their doubt that a directly elected PM as head of the government might become dictator then their argument is exploitive. But, how a directly elected PM as a head of the government could become a despotic doesn't hold up the fact. However, if he or she does then the democratic constitution by virtue will have the provision for impeachment. Also, there will be the Supreme Court to interpret the Supreme Law of the nation to protect the Democracy.
On the contrary, the presidential form of government in which the president is directly elected as head of the state and the prime minister indirectly elected as the head of the government has more chance to cause instability with the formation of the cabinet. Also, it is likely that the government can be stuck in a nation like Nepal where Democracy has not fully evolved with the rule of law. In that case, the elected president might have to force the law with the help of the army to protect the national integrity from anarchy. This will be unfortunate while proceeding with the federal setup.
How come Nepali Congress senior leaders and their cadres have hard time to modernize the Westminster Parliamentary system with the directly elected prime minister as the head of the government? This is really mind boggling! Normally, Westminster parliamentarians should have more difficulty accepting presidential than modernizing Westminster Parliamentary form of government with the directly elected PM.
On the contrary, NC should have feared directly elected president under presidential form of government for turning into a dictator as Westminster parliamentarian more than directly elected prime minister under the Parliamentary form of government, which is protect by the indirectly elected president as the head of the state.
From the perspective of federal setup the stable form of government is indispensible to implement the structures which might take several years. Whether the new constitution establishes the identity and the capacity or pure ethnicity based federalism, in federalism the national integrity is protected by the central (federal) government, which has authority to keep the military of the federal nation under its control. No military power remains under the control of the states despite how autonomous are the states and how much independence they have for self-governance.
It is the Supreme Court of the federal nation as one of the branches of the central (federal) government has the supreme authority to interpret the Supreme Law of the nation – the Constitution to protect Democracy and national integrity. But, never the states that can attempt to interpret the constitution even with their right to self-governance as autonomous states.
So, where is the danger that the senior leaders of NC sees for modernizing Westminster Parliamentary form of government with the directly elected prime minister for the full term under the federal government system? Where is the danger that anti-federalists within the main political parties see the nation will get disintegrated if it is federalized either ways – identity and capacity or pure ethnicity based?
Under the federal government setup if the Parliamentary practice is kept as the form of government then directly elected Prime Minister as the head of the government is must for the stability as much as the indirectly elected president as a ceremonial head of the state is needed for emergency to protect the national integrity. To fully implement the federal structure a stable government for the full term is crucial.
Prakash Bom is a freelance writer and columnist. His writings are focused on socio-political and economic issues of South Asia. He has written extensively on federalism with regards to the current political movements of Nepal. His articles are also published in American Chronicle http://www.americanchronicle.com/authors/view/2864