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Editorial: More than a rubber stamp

Editorial: More than a rubber stamp
Amid the marathon negotiations among the political parties over the election of Nepal’s third President, it will be worthwhile to turn the pages of the Constitution of Nepal 2015 and check what kind of President it has envisaged. Clause 61 (2) of Article-6 of the charter states: The President shall be the Head of (the) State of Nepal. He or she shall perform his or her functions in accordance with this Constitution and federal law. Clause 61 (3) states that the President shall promote national unity of Nepal, whereas Clause 61 (4) stipulates that the main duty of the President shall be to abide by and protect the Constitution.

But have our Presidents been able to defend, protect and abide by the Constitution? Have they been able to be the symbol of national unity by rising above partisan interests?

Some soul-searching on the part of our heads of state has indeed become necessary. These questions are not meant to dislodge the office-holders from their high pedestals. Rather, they are meant to make sure that their successors learn from the past and manage to do justice to their role. The role of the President has indeed become significant because the executive organ of the Nepali state often shows tyrannical tendencies like its kith and kin the world over, and there’s no guarantee that it won’t show them in future. The principles of separation of powers and checks and balances notwithstanding, the executive rides roughshod over civil liberties by violating the jurisdictions of two other state organs—the legislature and the judiciary. Our decades-long experience with parliamentary democracy shows that the executive has often imposed its will on the ‘sovereign’ parliament with respective parties cracking their whips on lawmakers from their respective folds and the latter doing their mother parties’ bidding. While submitting to the whip like the hapless beasts of burden instead of casting their votes of conscience, the people’s representatives have, more often than not, done a great disservice to the country and the people. The executive has often targeted the Supreme Court, the final interpreter of the Constitution, for its refusal to do its bidding, delivering injustice to the deliverer of justice. There’s no dearth of experts, who point out that the provision of a parliamentary hearing before the appointment of judges is a bid to ensure the appointment of chosen candidates. While not immune from such transgressions, the permanent opposition—the fourth estate—has time and time again stood against the executive’s tyrannical tendencies. As the protector, defender and the adherent of the Constitution and as the symbol of national unity, the President has a great role to play and ensure the implementation of the charter in its letter and spirit. For all this, the President needs to be more than a rubber stamp. It’s high time for the political parties to choose a candidate that manages to fill in those big shoes that this position demands.