Nepali Times
Down to brass tacks

Ever since May 2002, all prime ministers in this country have been provisional. But we may not have to wait long now for a legitimate, elected government.

Nepal must have set some kind of a world record by not forming a government even four months after an election. Mercifully, political parties have finally realised that there is no alternative to working together to institutionalise the republic and address the people's immediate needs. The new government will have to get down to brass tacks right away to make up for lost time.

Taking the peace process to its logical conclusion will have to be at the top of the agenda. Rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, reform of the Nepal Army and addressing the needs of the immediate victims of war are all linked to the peace process.

After the distraction of government formation is over, the Assembly should function smoothly so we can get on with the work of drafting a new constitution that will restructure the state. There is great public scepticism that a new constitution will be ready in two years.

But while we wait, the really urgent task is to restore governance. This must happen in parallel with state restructuring. To establish the credibility of the new government and to end the current state of anarchy and neglect of public services, the people want to see a government that is responsive to their needs.

More than a decade without elections undermined the state's legitimacy. It will be hard work to restore law and order. One quick way to generate faith in the capacity of the government and rekindle hope is to show immediate and tangible improvements in service delivery. The people don't need much: they just want law and order, they are sick of queuing for fuel and suffering power cuts, they want to be sure they can travel without being stuck on the highway, in deficit areas people need food urgently.

Several articles in this issue deal with the gory details of urban decay, lawlessness, the unacceptable rise in crime. At the root of all these problems is the prolonged lack of legitimate government and the unnecessarily lengthy post-election powerplay. This is a classic example of what happens when elected leaders lack accountability and are obsessed about retaining power at all cost.

Police posts removed during the insurgency need to be restored. VDC secretaries need to be in the villages. School teachers must be liberated from extortion. A stopgap political setup will have to be devised at village, district and municipality levels till the next local elections are held. Development can't happen in the present vacuum.

Nepalis are experts at coping. They have shown great forbearance and tolerance of their leaders as they try to reach a power-sharing deal. Let's not let it reach breaking point again.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)