Nepal’s Constituent Assembly expired without agreeing on a new Constitution on May 27 against the backdrop of a Supreme Court ruling. Fresh elections have been called in November by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. Since then, the Himalayan nation has been functioning under a caretaker government. But, the key question is whether Nepal can usher into a more stable polity after November elections.
Nepalese political parties have no alternative but to collaborate and deliver on people’s aspirations, says Professor Lok Raj Baral, in an email interview to Zee Research Group’s Ajay Vaishnav.
Currently heading the Nepal Center for Contemporary Studies in Kathmandu, Prof Baral has closely observed the Himalayan nation’s politics, society, foreign relations and governance and written about them in his various manuscripts, the latest being ‘Nepal- Nation-state in the Wilderness’.
He believes that the Parliamentary model is not suitable for Nepal’s fractious polity. He rather recommends a stable but accountable executive for a fixed period along the lines of the US.
Q. Can multi-party Parliamentary democracy work in Nepal?
Prof. Lok Raj Baral: Multiparty democracy has no alternative as of today. Nepal has already experimented with monarchical authoritarian regime and cannot go back to the old model as such regimes cannot cope with challenges being thrown open by various forces and trends. However, conventional multiparty democracy without social justice and inclusiveness is not likely to be successful.
Q. Can Nepal overcome its ongoing constitutional crisis? What are the major sticking points? Post May 27 deadline, what is the way forward for Nepal?
Prof. Lok Raj Baral: The present constitutional crisis will be overcome in the course of time. The major political parties are under tremendous constraints. Either they should accept the fresh election to the new Constituent Assembly in November or forge a consensus for a national unity government which is expected to settle all outstanding issues concerning federalism, election system and form of government. However, parties are still not prepared to come to the table for finding a way out of the present stalemate.
Q. Is the Nepalese polity amenable to the idea of federalism especially based on ethnicity?
Prof. Lok Raj Baral: There must be a compromise between ethnic-based and territorial basis of federalism. The ethnic leaders had agreed to a settlement along this line. It may assuage the fear of all groups concerned.
Q. You have maintained that British and Indian models of democracy won’t work for Nepal? What exactly are you suggesting for a democratic future of Nepal?
Prof. Lok Raj Baral: Nepal has its own historical antecedents, organizations (Maoists, other Left parties, and centrist parties like the Nepali Congress). Ideologically, some big parties and regional parties are still unclear. Political ideology has been relegated to the second and third position as other trends have become dominant. Moreover, Nepal`s past experiences in Parliamentary system have not been successful due to a variety of reasons including the trends of fragmentation of parties. As a result, political stability which is so crucial for sustainable democratic development would always be elusive.
I recommend for a stable but accountable executive for a fixed period as that of the United States. For India, Parliamentary model might have served the purpose but in the context of Nepal, it may not help the country. Recent developments have also testified this argument.