Nepali Times Asian Paints
Guest Column
Learning from Peru's transition


On 20 November, 2000, Alberto Fujimori resigned as Peruvian president by phone from Japan, home of his ancestors. By that time, the noose around his neck had tightened so much he had no choice.

In May, Fujimori had won a third term in a rigged election. But what really did him in was the lifting of the lid on the corrupt and shady dealings of his government. In September, a video was disclosed in which Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori's right-hand man, political operative and Machiavellian head of the powerful National Intelligence Service, was seen bribing a congressman. An avalanche of videos would follow, compromising political figures and businessmen who peddled favours with Montesinos. This triggered a scandal that led to the downfall of the Fujimori regime.

In May 2000, the Organization of American States (OAS) set up a roundtable between the government and the opposition. Eduardo Latorre, former Dominican Republic foreign minister, was appointed as OAS facilitator for negotiations that led to a transition government.

Two days after Fujimori's resignation, Valentin Paniagua, President of Congress as part of the agreement negotiated in the roundtable, was proclaimed president until 28 July, 2001. Paniagua put together a cabinet of independent personalities. To guarantee their neutrality, all of them pledged not to run in the coming election.

While the conditions of the current political deadlock in Nepal are quite different, there are elements in this successful Peruvian experience of a decade ago that may be relevant.

First, the transition government was formed with independent, prestigious figures who did not run in the next elections. This guaranteed that there were no ulterior political ambitions at play. That could be the trick here in Nepal.
Second, this was clearly defined as an interim government and thus had a narrowly focused mandate: to set up presidential and congressional elections for 8 April, 2001, and to finalise and run the government until a newly elected one was installed.

Here in Nepal, a transition government like this could be charged with the precise agenda of facilitating the conditions for the constitution-writing process and calling for the next elections within a pre-defined time frame. This would not be the time for any other important policy decisions.

Third, the roundtable, though facilitated by OAS and Latorre, was negotiated by the political actors of Peru. The mechanics of dialogue sessions and press conferences, as well as the role of Latorre, provided transparency in the negotiating process. This prevented the excesses typical of closed-door discussions. Politicians had to face public opinion with their demands. In Nepal, if politicians had to do their horse-trading in front of a respected facilitator and then explain their demands to the press and public, they might discover reason.

If the next cabinet is formed with respected, independent figures a lot of political haggling will be off the table. Political parties would be left with their core job only: writing the constitution. By being strictly defined as an interim government, and not a 'real' government, its job would not be making policy changes. Rather, it should run an efficient government until a new, elected government with a clear mandate takes over.

Thinking that the current government is 'real' rather than interim has seriously complicated the Nepali transition process. It has shifted the focus from writing the constitution to power struggles. The mandate of the last election was clear: write a constitution. It was never to run a government, which should only be approached as a caretaker job.

Doing the same thing again and again, and somehow expecting different results the next time, does not work. Looking at what has worked elsewhere is a good way to start.

Raul Schiappa-Pietra studied Religions at the University of Chicago, and is currently doing research in Nepal.


Interview with Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood
Indian insecurities, PRASHANT JHA

1. jange
The two situations are nowhere near close. In order to be even remotely close Mr. Guzman would have to be have been the president/prime minister and the Sendero Luminoso would have to have around 40 percent of the seats in whatever legislatures Peru has.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)