Thursday, June 28, 2012

Does Federalism Lead To A Bigger Government?

The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 178...
The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781. This was the format for the United States government until the Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Some anti federalist forces are arguing that Nepal is too poor a country to be able to afford federalism. To the current government expenditures in Kathmandu they add the expenditures of all future state governments and they throw their hands into the air.

That is not how federalism works. Federalism is a more efficient form of government. Which means government expenses will actually go down. How so? Many of the functions of the unitary government in Kathmandu will be handed over to the states. That will lead to the elimination of some ministries and the downsizing of others.

Federalism done right is supposed to lead to an overall smaller bureaucracy.
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Attacks On Federalism Mounting

English: PM Bhattarai during a live talk show.
English: PM Bhattarai during a live talk show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An all party government would be better suited than the current government to hold elections to the constituent assembly, but that all party government has to be a political decision by the parties. That can not be an initiative by the president. 

It would make sense for that all party government to be led by the party that was the largest in the last parliament. As in, it would make great sense for Baburam Bhattarai to continue being Prime Minister. So the effort towards an all party government is merely an exercise in adding a few members of the NC and the UML to the current cabinet. I don't think the Bhattarai government is opposed to that. 

The NC and the UML misunderstand the concept of consensus. If due process had been allowed, the country today would already have had a constitution. More than two thirds of the last constituent assembly had lined up to give the country meaningful federalism. But the Bahun leaders of the NC and the UML who - let's face it - never willingly went for the idea of a constituent assembly, played roughshod with due process leading to the demise of the constituent assembly. 

To allow one of those Bahuns, be it Sushil Koirala or KP Oli, to lead an all party government at this juncture would be to reward those who need to be punished. You can't reward those who do not believe in due process. These are anti federalist forces who, given enough space, will get rid of the concept of federalism itself. 

The constitutional option is for Baburam Bhattarai to continue as Prime Minister and be open to bringing in some members of the NC and the UML into the cabinet which I believe he is. The political option is to take the country to fresh elections and before that help drive the Madhesis and Janajatis out of the NC and the UML and thus lead to an utter demise of these two anti federalist parties. 

Baburam Bhattarai proved skillful on the army integration issue. His challenge now has become bigger. If he caves into the illegal NC, UML demands for his ouster, he will have pushed the country into a constitutional vacuum out of which unintended consequences might arise. Right now some space has been taken by the anti federalism forces. A constitutional vacuum will give space to the anti republican forces. Next thing you know we are going back to the 1990 constitution, which is what the NC and the UML leaders have wanted all along. That can not be allowed. 

And if the NC and the UML will not join the current government to give it an all party face, the current caretaker government has to take the country into elections anyhow. I don't think the NC and the UML have the option to boycott the elections where they will be soundly defeated. They will emerge smaller than they were in the last constituent assembly. 
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Political Polarizations

List of Prime Ministers of Nepal
List of Prime Ministers of Nepal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Maoists Have Split, The NC, UML Will Split

The leadership of the two status quo parties - the NC, and the UML - are the reason the country today has neither the new constitution nor a constituent assembly. They got in the way of due process and cost the country billions. That is a political crime and has to be punished. The appropriate punishment is for the Janajati and Madhesi leaders inside those two parties to walk away and form a new party or two. The best outcome of the premature dissolution of the constituent assembly will be the birth of the country's first Janajati party. I look forward to that happening.

The Maoist Split

The Baidya faction is going to be like the Bamdev faction of the UML when they split. The Baidya faction will weaken the mother party some, sure, but it might not win more than a handful of seats should it contest elections on its own. And by his own admission Baidya does not want to launch a revolution, not now, the precise accusation based on which he walked away. Now the mother party has an even bigger reason to form electoral alliances with the Madhesi parties.

All Party Election Government

As the choice of the biggest party in the last elected body in the country I think Baburam Bhattarai is the most suitable person to lead an all party government to fresh elections to a new constituent assembly in the country. To go for a name like Sushil Koirala at this point would be to give in to the tendency among the NC and the UML leadership to disregard due process, the tendency that deprived the country a new constitution the last time around.

One Unified Madhesi Party

The talk along those lines in some quarters are positive but perhaps not realistic at this juncture. A meaningful electoral alliance might be more realistic.
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