Nepal’s eminent citizens decry foreign interference in government formation, attempt to subvert election mandate

‘The effort by one set of foreign governments to influence the formation of Nepal’s executive leadership is bound to trigger reaction from other direction, putting Nepal in grave danger of becoming a geo-political football.’

NL Today

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Kathmandu: A group of eminent Nepali citizens in Kathmandu has expressed serious concern over frequent meetings between top leaders and foreign diplomats and the attempt to subvert the mandate of the recently concluded general elections. Tirtha Man Shakya, former chief secretary, Kul Chandra Gautam, former assistant secretary general to the United Nations, Yubaraj Ghimire, senior journalist, Sushil Pyakurel, human rights activist, and Kanak Mani Dixit, senior journalist, have expressed serious concerns through the joint statement released on Wednesday.

The statement comes in the wake of multiple reports that foreign envoys based in Kathmandu–especially the US ambassador to Nepal and Indian ambassador to Nepal–held meetings with top leaders after the results of general elections were announced.  Over recent weeks, parties in the ruling alliance have also sought to give clemency to the accused in heinous crimes through the ordinance. 

“At a time when the sitting of parliament and formation of government through due process and established norms should be the next step for the elected representatives, frequent meetings between our top leaders and foreign diplomats sends ominous signals that voting by the electorate is not decisive,” they have said in the statement.

In the statement, they have strongly opposed the foreign intervention in the government formation process. “We are concerned that the unscrupulous horse-trading for government formation abetted by foreign intervention will only deliver more unaccountable and corrupt governance, depriving the Nepali public of the fruits of political stability, economic growth, inclusion and equity,” the statement says. “Under such unprincipled leadership, the economy is sure to crumble, the departure of Nepali youth to overseas employment will continue, even as the nation-state is weakened geopolitically. The faith of the public in the state and constitution will be eroded.”

The citizens have also demanded that Nepali Congress should approach other democratic parties to form the government and that the political party (Maoist Center) that has been sliding in every general election since 2008 should not be allowed to dictate terms to the largest party and the country as a whole. “Nepali Congress as the party with the largest number of MPs must seek to form government, approaching other democratic parties on a common agenda outside the electoral alliance,” says the statement.

According to them, Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML should remain in consultation so that unhealthy deal-making and external dictates do not hijack government formation. “The two largest parties must develop a common understanding on foreign relations, economic policy, social justice and constitutionalism, and the need to reject outside interference on domestic matters including government formation,” they have said.

They have also expressed the worries that unprincipled and unethical alliances hold the danger of weakening the state itself through inappropriate choices for the posts of President, Vice-President, Speaker and the heads and members of constitutional bodies. “Such appointments will have long-term impact on constitutionalism and democracy itself,” says the statement.

The citizens have appealed to the head of state to act as conscience keeper and not to endorse the controversial ordinance to amend the National Criminal Procedure (Code) Act (2017).  “At this crucial juncture before the formation of government, we appeal to the President to act as conscience-keeper and not allow the country to be ruled in the interim by ordinances brought by a caretaker government,” the statement says.

The statement raises a deep concern that Nepal might become a geopolitical football. “The effort by one set of foreign governments to influence the formation of Nepal’s executive leadership, overtly showing their support for one side, is bound to trigger reaction from the other direction. Nepal is thus in grave danger of becoming a geo-political football,” says the statement.

They have asked the foreign powers to follow the Panchsheel code while dealing with Nepal:  “We demand all neighbors and friendly countries follow the Panchsheel code in their dealings with Nepal, which includes the sacrosanct principle of non-intervention, overt or covert. Foreign intervention at any level is unacceptable even as Nepal strives to protect its historical neutrality shaped over the decades.”