It is often said there are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests in foreign policy. This seems to apply pretty much in Nepal’s domestic politics. The interest in politics should be based on political principles and agendas. But the leaders’ interests have been driven by their ego and gain.
Now, we are used to facing the tragedy of a political leader’s ego and gain. KP Oli had ascended to the throne with the support of almost two thirds majority in the House of Representatives. In his initial days as a prime minister, he used to claim that he was leading the most powerful government. Technically, of course, it was a powerful government after the Bisheshwor Prasad (BP) Koirala government in 1959. The great tragedy of Nepali democracy is that BP’s government survived less than two years because of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s security concern and King Mahendra’s ambition to be an active monarch. BP’s government could not move ahead as smoothly as people had hoped.
Analysts, leaders and intellectuals have pointed to external factors to push Oli’s government into turmoil. But if we see things from Marxist perspective, an internal factor is always crucial. If there is quality for change inside things, then external factors can influence it. The leadership failure of PM Oli, coupled with his ego-centricism, have brought a challenge onto himself.
Articles and provisions of the constitution are not enough to make democracy strong and prosperous. All democracies rely on informal rules. We always praise the two-term presidency system in US politics that the US constitution has provisioned since 1951. Apart from Franklin D Roosevelt, no one has got the opportunity to become president for more than two terms. After Roosevelt, the US made an amendment in the constitution to fix two-term for president in 1951. The first US president George Washington’s retirement after two terms established a powerful precedent in US politics. Even ambitious and popular presidents like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson refrained from challenging it. But in Nepal, leaders try to violate provisions and rule as much as possible to fulfill personal interests. Leaders not only violate the country’s constitutions and laws while they are in position, but also party’s constitution to hold executive positions. Take the decision of CPN-UML. In the ninth congress, CPN-UML provisioned that septuagenarians are prohibited to hold the position in the party. It was not continued while they merged with CPN Maoist Centre to become Nepal Communist Party (NCP). When the Supreme Court invalidated the merger, PM Oli made a change in the provision of age limit allowing the septuagenarians and older to hold a position in the party. It is clear that the decision was taken to continue Oli as the party’s chairman. A preference for a single leader in a party never makes democracy strong.
After the constitution promulgation, Oli got the great opportunity to lead a two-thirds majority government. But he failed to abide by the constitution himself and generate people’s trust in the constitution.
Prime Minister Oli is practicing constitutional hardball. He has been manipulating procedures, laws, and institutions in his favour, causing a big threat to democracy. In the process, PM Oli is profiting himself. This destroys the ground to work together for a shared understanding of democracy.
Now, not only has PM Oli lost two thirds majority support, he has also lost his fellow comrades to the opposition camp. A leader always needs to create space for different thoughts but PM Oli always followed bigotry. Bigotry begets bigotry: His fellow leaders and opposition are now left with no option but to take revenge against Oli.
State institutions hardly ever independently work in favour of justice and people in third world countries. It happens because leaders practice constitutional hardball to reach and remain in power. In Nepal, politics of ‘setting’ has become a norm. People are suspicious of the decision of the Supreme Court and Election Commission because there is a kind of ‘setting’. People’s suspicions in the institutions are outcomes of lack of rule of law and arbitrary measures of PM Oli.
After the constitution promulgation, Oli got the great opportunity to lead a two thirds majority government. But he failed to abide by the constitution himself and generate people’s trust in the constitution. Oli himself did not seem to own up this constitution. He said in public that federalism is a part of decentralization and provinces are not autonomous but units of federal government.
Oli has been manipulating procedures, laws, and institutions in his favour, causing a big threat to democracy.
Oli has already dissolved the House of Representatives twice. He used to claim nobody else can form and lead a government but himself. But it is crystal clear from his conspiracy how he has prevented others from forming a new government. He has no mutual tolerance which is an essential quality for a democratic leader. If leaders have no democratic culture then the only democratic constitution is not enough to save democracy.
Given his own failure on multiple fronts, Oli should have stepped down. But such moral politics cannot be expected from him. Tolerance is not inherent in Oli’s character and that is pushing our democracy to danger.