A good beginning is half done, they say. But that doesn't seem to apply to Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai.
He started out well in September, confirming the public's perception of him as an upright and austere politician. He eschewed the official SUV, travelled economy to New York, personally inspected highway restaurants and set up a complaints hotline.
But you can't rule by symbolism alone. Sooner or later the people are going see through it. Many of the country's problems need structural solutions, not populist photo-ops.
But Bhattarai is now having to deal with the aftershocks of two flawed decisions he took before flying off for the SAARC summit on Tuesday. He inducted a cabinet of record-breaking girth. Then he got his bloated cabinet to ask presidential pardon for a party colleague convicted of murder and sentenced by the Supreme Court to life imprisonment. This has angered human rights groups, opposition parties and the victims' family members.
The issue also threatens to embroil the president in a controversy at a time when the country needs political unity. Prem Bahadur Khadka of the Nepal Bar Association says the prime minister's move has undermined democracy and the rule of law: "The government should take back its decision, this issue shouldn't be taken to the president at all."
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