MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
But would it be backed by a national consensus, which has been elusive since the election of the Constituent Assembly in 2008? Time will tell, but leaders say there is no other alternative.
Whether Khanal stays or goes is immaterial. In any case, he hasn't done anything so far to inspire confidence in his leadership. So the all-important question, again, is whether the two principal architects of the peace process since 2005, the NC and the Maoists, reach a consensus.
The NC has demanded, and rightly so, that the Maoists first deliver on their promises vis-a-vis a peace process without delaying the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants. Also reasonable is the NC's insistence on a lateral agreement on the new constitution.
Supremacy of the constitution and constitutionality (against parliamentary supremacy), periodic elections, independence of the judiciary, free press and pluralism – plus, an apolitical national army – would guarantee a democratic constitution. There cannot be any compromise on these principles, however much the Maoists insist on diluting them.
The Maoist leadership believes that they have given too much but fail to acknowledge the successes of an abolished monarchy, an elected Constituent Assembly, and a secularised state. The leadership continues to sell to its cadre the impossible dream of complete revolution (a euphemism for state capture and one-party rule).
However, the NC, too, needs to make its own concessions. The form of governance need not be a Westminster-style parliament as the NC insists, arguing that a system of a directly-elected head of government would make the country more vulnerable to a one-party takeover. If the principles mentioned above are ensured, dictatorial ambitions can be foiled. And if watchdog institutions that ensure check and balance are weak, it wouldn't stop a party with authoritarian ambitions from being stupid.
The NC can also make a compromise on the electoral system. The NC has pressed for a first-past-the-post system (where a candidate with the highest number of votes in a constituency is elected) and has only grudgingly accepted the principle of proportional representation under a mixed electoral system.
But the truth is that some form of proportional representation would ensure that smaller parties are heard. Of course, there are risks. Recently, four lawmakers—lone representatives of their respective parties or independent—are attempting to paralyse parliament. But not doing so would only further fuel the disenchantment of smaller parties with the system.
The result of the recent elections in Singapore should be enough to quiet those who oppose a proportional representation system. The opposition there has managed to get nearly 40 per cent of the total votes cast and has only six seats (an improvement from past elections) in the 87-member parliament.
So in fact, the NC could demonstrate flexibility on the forms of government and its elections without compromising
the fundamentals of democracy.