Nepali Times
Eyes Wide Shut
Dumb and dumber



Make no mistake. The interim constitution promulgated Monday is 'interim' in name only. It will be in force until a new constitution, written by an elected constitution assembly is drafted, approved and put into effect-a timeline that could stretch as long as three years. And even then, this document is certain to provide the blueprint for the new one.

There has been intense criticism of the interim constitution from many quarters. The lawyers and judiciary say that because the constitution is executive-centric and demolishes the independence of the judiciary. Janjatis, madhesis, and dalits can't stand it because of the meagre representation it prescribes for them in the future constituent assembly. Lawmakers are critical because the legislature now has no means to remove the prime minister.

These are all valid arguments, and a document that will govern Nepal for almost three years needs to be scrutinised and its kinks ironed out. But what did Prime Minister Koirala, his governing SPA alliance and the Maoists say to all these dissenters?

"You're right, but we don't have time to address all these issues. We are tied down by this artificial timeline we brought upon ourselves, so we have to promulgate this constitution on 15 January. Only then can we hold the all-important constituent assembly election by mid-June. Please allow us to promulgate this constitution now. We promise to look into your grievances and amend the document as we go along."

We, the people, being so trusting of our politicians, have given them the benefit of the doubt. Not that it matters, because the party-appointed parliamentarians would have approved the document anyway whether we agreed or disagreed. What can we do about this amateur document foisted upon our lives for three years?

There's nothing much we can do, actually, other than hope that Koirala and others deliver on the promises they made. Because, if you read the document carefully, you will see that the notion of accountability has been jettisoned. No one is really answerable to anyone.

Let's begin with the interim legislature itself. This is a body that is not elected, so its members are not answerable to the voters. The formerly elected lawmakers, whose mandate (if there was one) ran out on the night of 15 January, are now completely unencumbered from voter pressure and only answerable to their parties.

The same is the case with the soon-to-be formed interim government. Yes, it will be a coalition between the SPA and Maoists, but it too isn't accountable to anyone. The ministers will answer to the prime minister alone but the prime minister-to no one. In case you haven\'t noticed, there is no provision to move a no-trust motion against the prime minister in the interim legislature. So there is no incentive for him to behave.

We have, in our hour of national delirium, put everything in the hands of one man: a frail 84-year-old who has repeatedly shown how lacking in vision he can be. The instability of the 1990s stemmed directly from his refusal to compromise with his party colleagues, and later with the communists. The appointments he made over the years to government and party positions unwittingly reinforced how insensitive he can be to minority communities.

And now, since Koirala is unsure how long his health will hold out, the country is set on an unnatural timeline for constituent assembly polls by mid-June. That madhesi, janjati and dalit concerns for greater representation are being sacrificed at this altar is the biggest irony of this new inclusive democracy we are supposedly living in.

How much dumber can we get?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)