Himal Khabarpatrika: The committee on system of governance failed to present an 'ideal' governance system. Weren't the models floated in the committee any good?
Krishna Khanal: The committee failed to propose a single model even after voting on the main proposal and those of the dissenters. There are clearly three models for a governance system. The Maoists' model of the presidential system got 18 votes but failed to garner a majority. The UML/NC proposal for an executive prime minister elected through parliament got 14 votes, while TMLP's proposal for an elected president through parliament got three votes.
For those who truly believe in democracy, the governance model is not as important as the principles involved. First, there should be an elected government. The biggest party should lead the government. Second, the government should be accountable and capable of governing and delivering services to the public. They should not be in power forever once they get elected. There should be periodic elections: usually 3-6 years in democratic countries.?
The executive president as proposed by the Maoists would also be elected through periodic elections. We can make a provision to ensure such a president would only be eligible to serve two terms. The reformed model proposed by UML and NC is the Westminster model of parliament, which is a popular model. An added provision in this model is that a no-confidence motion shall not be tabled twice in the same parliamentary session. The 1990 constitution also had this provision but it did not work, as parties resorted to special sessions of parliament to table such motions.
Although TLMP's proposed model is similar to the Westminster model, it has an executive president instead of a prime minister, as is the case in certain African countries, where parliament elects the president.
Therefore, all these models are democratic models. An elected government through periodic elections and an accountable and capable government to ensure good governance is what people want.
Why isn't there a consensus if all models are in line with democratic norms? A lack of expert advice?
Lack of inter-party dialogue and rigid party stances prevented a consensus. The discussion on the proposals was not sufficient and the other democratic models were not even discussed..
There was expert advice but the political leaders didn't make use of it. For instance, why did UML suddenly abandon its official proposal and support the NC proposal? TMLP did not support a directly elected executive, as that would not benefit small parties. Since the Maoists won the last election, they opted for a directly elected executive.
owever, we have to look at this proposal in its totality. It is important to know what kind of legislative, judiciary and executive they have proposed. One can see that the Maoists' proposal leaves open the possibility of a totalitarian leadership. For instance, they have proposed a unicameral parliament while they advocate a federal system. Their system lacks checks and balances for legislative bodies. Besides, they have also demanded supremacy of parliament. They have even recommended control via a parliamentary special committee of other organs of the state. The Panchayat regime had this structure. The Maoists' model on the form of state governance is questionable for this reason.
Which of these models is most suitable for us?
All three models proposed are based on a first past the post system. The Maoists and TMLP have different opinions on the election of an executive president. NC and UML are parliamentarians traditionally. Although the parliamentary system is unstable, the government is more accountable to the public. The executive presidential system is stable but not as accountable.The British saw the monarchy as a symbol of continuity and they chose the parliamentary system to make government more accountable. The Americans wanted stability and opted for a presidential model, as there was nothing that could bring them all together.
The monarch is now gone. Though we never took him as a symbol of unity, we do need stability. That is why the president should represent diversity, not continuity, and we should have a directly elected executive prime minister. In the past, we never got a stable government even if a party got majority. Given the nature of our parties, a directly elected PM could mean more stability.
Why do you think the Westminster model didn't work in Nepal?
Because we lacked the necessary political culture. This model is characterised by government and opposition in parliament. The party in majority leads the government and other parties make up the opposition, also called the government in anticipation. They wait until the people vote them into power, whether that takes 10, 20 or 50 years. In 15 years of parliamentary practice, our political parties did not exhibit the necessary patience to play the opposition. NC, which supported this system, didn't even stay out of government for six months at a time. The opposition has the right to criticise the works of the government. In parliamentary culture, they play a productive role outside of government, and there needn't be requests for a national unity government. We need to revise the form of state governance in light of our political culture. This is the job of political parties and intellectuals.
Could a directly elected prime minister fulfill our needs?
A directly elected executive prime minister might be new to many of us. The checks and balances system will be weak in the presidential system but in a directly elected prime ministerial system there will be a set of control mechanisms. There are two reasons for Nepal to go for such a prime ministerial system. First, the country's diversity should be reflected at the highest government levels. For that, federal and provincial parliaments can elect the president, who can exercise limited power. Second, if the popularly elected prime minister exceeds his authority, the president can correct him.
What form of state governance would you recommend?
A directly elected executive PM is not a bad option. As the country has become a federal republic, it is realistic to have an executive elected directly by the people. It does not matter which system: prime ministerial or presidential, but the executive should be directly elected by the people. However, the presidential system should be different from the Maoist proposal, which doesn't maintain an appropriate balance of powers. The conventional parliamentary system won't work now. Therefore, a directly elected executive prime minister and a president elected by the federal and provincial parliaments will be the most appropriate model.
Constitution 2010, Nepali Times coverage of issues related to writing the new constitution